UC Berkeley researchers create rapid test to detect superbugs

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley created a simple test to rapidly detect antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in ChemBioChem.

The DETECT test identifies the molecular signatures of antibiotic-resistant bacteria using a patient's urine sample, specifically looking for the presence of beta-lactamases, which break down antibiotics.

"DETECT tells you not only who has antibiotic-resistant infections but also tells you who could be treated by early-generation antibiotics, allowing you to spare higher-end antibiotics and slow the spread of drug resistance," Niren Murthy, PhD, a professor of engineering at UC Berkeley and one of the study's authors, said in a press release.

The test would allow clinicians to collect a urine sample and diagnose antibiotic-resistant infections in a physician's office instead of waiting several days for lab results.

Tara DeBoer, PhD, a study author and postdoctoral fellow in UC Berkeley's College of Engineering, co-founded a company called BioAmp Diagnostics to commercialize the technology behind the diagnostic test. She is also working with physicians and hospital lab specialists to design DETECT tests for different medical settings.

"Everybody has different needs in the hospital," Dr. deBoer said in a press release. "Right now, we have a lot of designs, but what we are doing is allowing the intended use to define what the design is going to look like."

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