Novel Rapid Test Identifies Treatment for Drug-Resistant Bacteria

A rapid test can screen thousands of drugs to determine the best treatment for an antibiotic-resistant bacteria strain.

Researchers have created a novel rapid test that is able to screen drugs to discover whether they can treat a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The researchers believe that this test can be useful to treat resistant bacteria more effectively.

This screening approach also offers a new way to repurpose drugs that are being used to treat a different condition, according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which created the test.

In the study, published by Emerging Microbes & Infections, researchers screened 4000 FDA-approved drugs and compounds with the test, which showed 25 substances that were able to successfully inhibit the growth of 2 resistant strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae.

These findings are significant because it has developed resistance to a majority of antibiotics, and has also caused many fatal infections in hospitals.

The rapid test was also used to determine the efficacy of drug combinations against antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and they found 3 different 3-drug combinations able to combat 10 common strains.

The test uses high-throughput screening technology to examine thousands of drugs and compounds that have the ability to stop bacterial growth, according to the study. The drugs identified were both already approved (11) and investigational (14) treatments, including antibiotics, antifungals, antiseptics, antimalarial, and anticancer drugs, as well as an antiviral drug, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“The results are very promising, and we think that the test can eventually help repurpose approved drugs and other compounds and find clinically relevant drug combinations that can be approved for to use in different ways that we have never used before,” said Wei Zheng, PhD, a researcher at the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. “We’re hoping this approach will lead to approvable, effective ways to combat dangerous infections by drug-resistant bacteria.”

Recently, the cases of drug-resistant strains of bacteria have been increasing, especially in hospitals. Hospitals typically do not have the capability or the time to test thousands of drugs and combinations to treat these infections, which can lead to more cases of antibiotic-resistance.

After these compounds were identified, researchers wanted to make sure that they could be used optimally since some of them are weak in low concentrations. Thus, the researchers worked to determine which combinations of drugs could be paired to fight resistance.

The researchers paired the newly-identified drugs with standard antibiotics that were ineffective in order to make drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae respond to standard antibiotics again, according to the study. They discovered that combining colistin with doxycycline was able to make the bacteria sensitive to colistin again.

They also evaluated 3-drug combinations of broad-acting antibiotics that can be given to patients with serious infections in a situation where physicians do not have time to decide which drug to prescribe. To do so, researchers screened 10 drug-resistant strains.

“We wanted to see which three-drug combinations made sense,” Dr Zheng said. “We screened hundreds of drugs against Klebsiella pneumoniae, and tested 15 combinations against the 10 strains. We found 3 sets of 3-drug combinations had the most activity, and think these three combinations eventually may be useful to clinicians.”

The researchers hope this rapid test can be used to help physicians make quick treatment decisions for life-threatening drug-resistant infections. They believe this could be an important resource for physicians.

“It can provide crucial information for a rapid response to emerging infectious diseases,” Dr Zheng concluded.