Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist October 2016 Contents Viral or bacterial test developed
The fight against antimicrobial resistance has a new weapon in its arsenal.
Researchers from The University of
Queensland (UQ) and Imperial College
London have developed a method to
distinguish viral and bacterial infections
in children, which will save lives and
reduce antibiotic use.
Associate Professor Lachlan Coin from
the Centre for Superbug Solutions at
UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience
said bacterial and viral infections could
be difficult to tell apart.
‘Most children with a fever have a
self-resolving viral infection like a
flu, but a small number have life-
threatening bacterial infections such as
meningococcal disease,’ Dr Coin said.
‘Our method will prevent the
unnecessary prescription of antibiotics
to children with viral infections, and
ensure dangerous bacterial infections
don’t go undetected.’
Dr Coin, said previous studies had
suggested that specific infections could
be identified by the pattern of genes
activated by the fever.
‘We analysed the gene patterns in the
blood of children presenting with a
fever at some hospitals in the United
Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands and
the United States between 2009 and
2013, and discovered two genes that
can distinguish bacterial infection from
other causes of fever,’ he said.
Dr Coin said multidrug-resistant
bacteria, or superbugs, were serious
cause for concern.
‘Unless we tackle this problem, by 2050
superbugs could be claiming the lives of
10 million people each year,’ he said.
‘Over-prescription of antibiotics is
significantly contributing to the rise of
Searching for candidates
Dr Blaskovich said one of the
hypotheses the group had about
why new antibiotics were not being
discovered was that pharmaceutical
companies were not looking the right
kind of chemical space. Over the past 30
years they had shifted their collection
of corporate compounds to focus on
compounds with properties that made
them more drug like, but for other
indications. However, antibiotics tend
to have different physicochemical
properties from most other drugs.
‘ We thought we’d try finding a different
source of chemical diversity. Antibiotics
have traditionally come from natural
products in the environment. That was
the way most of them were discovered
in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.’
CO-ADD offers free testing to see if
compounds can kill any one of five key
pathogenic bacteria or two fungi.
‘Our idea was that chemists all around
the world have been synthesising
unusual compounds for many,
many years and a lot of those
compounds had never been synthesised
for antimicrobial activity. Chemists
make compounds for a lot of reasons.
They make compounds, publish a paper
and those compounds get stuck in a vial,
stuck on a shelf, or in the back of a fridge
somewhere and generally no-one ever
looks at them again.
‘All these chemical compounds are
sitting around on people’s shelves
around the world. The idea is – people
can send us their compounds (all that
is needed is 1 mg of compound) and
is a major
this serious global
challenge. The biomarker
we discovered has the potential to
diagnose other childhood diseases,
including lupus and juvenile arthritis.’
The research team will seek to translate
the discovery into clinical tests suitable
for use in hospitals.
'We need to conduct more research, but
we are quite confident we will be able
to harness existing DNA sequencing
technology to develop a revolutionary low-
cost and rapid way to analyse and diagnose
infections in children,’ Dr Coin said.
The study was, published in the Journal
of the American Medical Association, was
led by Professor Michael Levin of Imperial
Our idea was that chemists
all around the world have
been synthesising unusual
compounds for many,
many years and a lot of
those compounds had
never been synthesised for
Dr Mark Blaskovich,
CO-ADD Program Coordinator
Australian Pharmacist October 2016 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
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