Researchers develop system to map out areas of antibiotic resistance

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy researchers designed a system that can map out antibiotic trends across the state.

The map tool, called AMR Tracker, is designed to resemble a weather map and provides insight on the probability of whether a pathogen will respond to a particular antibiotic.

To develop the tool, researchers analyzed 202 antibiograms, or tables of antibiotic resistance, from Wisconsin hospitals between 2009 and 2015. The antibiograms displayed the susceptibility of 200,000 strains of E. coli to seven classes of drugs. The researchers then plotted the data on a map of the state and used cartographic methods from the state's cartographer's office to stitch together points and produce regions of antibiotic susceptibility.

Results of the AMR Tracker showed strong variation geographically across Wisconsin, and that antibiotic resistance was much greater in denser, more urban regions of the state and in valleys. Researchers published their findings in the American Society for Microbiology.

While researchers concluded they are not sure what factors caused the "pockets of antibiotic resistance," they are continuing to analyze factors including population density, animal agriculture and antibiotic use patterns. The team is also working on partnering with hospitals to determine how AMR Tracker can be implemented into physician workflows in the future.

"With antibiotic resistance, we've seen this problem grow very slowly over the past century, and it's an enormous threat," Laurel Legenza, PharmD, the project's leader and interim director of global health at the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy, said in a news release. "We know there's an opportunity to improve by selecting an antibiotic that considers the local antibiotic resistance trend. And that's really the heart of the project, is to provide data in a visualization that would improve its use and application directly to patient care."

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