This year’s project focuses on the fast and specific detection of bacteria. Our method can be used as an easy-to-use point-of-care test to diagnose bacterial infections and in that way enable the specific use of antibiotics. The specific use of antibiotics is required to win the fight against the increasing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Bacterial infections such as the common urinary tract infections or simple wound infections are all treated with lots of antibiotics. An increasing problem nowadays and one of the biggest threats to global health in thirty years will be AMR. The bacteria, the enemies with infections, mutate continuously whereby they can make themselves resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infection. This process is heavily accelerated by unspecific and frequent use of antibiotics. If we continue to use unspecific and unnecessary high dosages of antibiotics, all bacteria will mutate and become immune to our weapons. This means that in 2050, 10 million people across Europe and the US alone will die because of antibiotic resistance. In other words, infections such as urinary tract infections will soon cause more deaths than cancer and cardiovascular diseases combined.

This year’s team aims to overcome the AMR problem by improving the diagnostics of infections to decrease and prevent antibiotics misuse. By developing a more specific and faster detection method, infections can be treated more quickly and specifically without the development of antibiotic resistance. Specific detection is needed to administer specific types of antibiotics, instead of high general doses. Because of the modularity of our method, a broad range of bacteria can be detected and therefore various infections can be diagnosed.

Next to that, a broad application is possible that extends further than the diagnosis of infections at humans, for example also the diagnosis of animals. Lots of antibiotics are used in factory farming (often even as a preventive measure) and the resistant bacteria resulting from these practices, also pose a great threat to humans. Lastly, also drink water and food can be easily and quickly checked on the presence of pathogenic bacteria.

The implementation of this fast and specific bacteria detection method will ensure that we can keep on winning our fight against bacteria.

More information about this project will be published on our iGEM wiki.