Scientists are using a new robotic platform to control the spread of dangerous drug-resistant bacteria.
Murdoch University researchers have developed a surveillance device called a Robotic Anti-microbial Susceptibility Platform, or RASP, that automatically identifies and monitors antibiotic-resistant organisms.
Lead researcher and microbiologist Dr Sam Abraham says the technology has the potential to increase processing power, produce consistent results, cut labour costs, and prevent bacterial spread at a quicker pace.
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest global health and food security according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It describes the ability of microorganisms – including bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites – to become resistant to drugs and antibiotics designed to target them.
A 2018 Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare report revealed that nearly one in eight samples of Escherichia coli (E. Coli) – the most common cause of dangerous bloodstream infections- were resistant to antibiotics.
Surveillance is one of the key methods used to monitor bacterial spread, however the current human-centred monitoring tactics are extremely cost-prohibitive and time-consuming since they rely on manual labour.
“At this rate, we`re looking at quite a substantial global economic impact equivalent to 100 trillion US dollars by 2050,” Dr. Abraham said.
“Through RASP, we can upscale the testing by 1000 per cent, and figure out where resistance occurs and act upon it rapidly, rather than wait for things to go pair shaped.”
Associate Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UWA Prof Manfred Beilharz says while robotic surveillance may lead to a greater awareness of the scale and nature of AMR in a particular regions, it doesn’t address the actual problem.
“The emphasis in this situation should be how does AMR arise in the organisms and how are you going to get around it,” Prof Beilharz said.
Dr Abraham says the next step is to use robotics in the discovery of new drugs that will eliminate antimicrobial resistant organisms.