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Quick test for superbug infection

Mass spectrometer used to differentiate drug-resistant bacteria

A simple, new test may accurately diagnose some of the most drug-resistant bacterial infections such as bronchitis and gastroenteritis in under 15 minutes, scientists say.

Bacteria have been gradually evolving to become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. Over the last few years, scientists have found evidence that some bacteria have become resistant to a last resort antibiotic called colistin.

Researchers, including those from Imperial College London in the U.K., tested 134 different colonies of bacteria using a machine called a mass spectrometer that is used to analyse various different molecules.

They studied bacteria called Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumonia .

Some strains of these bacteria have become resistant to nearly all available antibiotics mostly by producing antibiotic inactivating enzymes, researchers said.

Researchers found that it was possible to distinguish between those bacteria that are colistin resistant, and those that are not. They could also find which bacteria have the more dangerous plasmid-encoded resistance.

“The exciting thing about this technique is that it relies on technology that is already available in most hospitals,” said Gerald Larrouy-Maumus of Imperial College London.

This means the tests can be rolled out quickly and cheaply, the scientists said.

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