Witney MP David Cameron performs rapid analysis of antibiotic-resistant bacteria using novel British technology

Witney MP David Cameron today visited local company Oxford Nanopore Technologies, the company behind the MinION handheld DNA sequencer.

He used the Company’s portable device to analyse a sample containing the common bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.  During the ten minute analysis, data streaming in real time from the MinION showed that the bacteria was a drug-resistant strain commonly knowns as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

“Resistance to antibiotics is a serious, emerging problem." said Mr Cameron.  "It was hugely impressive to see the results of a DNA analysis of a drug resistant strain of a bacteria today – in just a few minutes!  It was also good to learn more from the scientists at Oxford Nanopore about the technology’s use in TB, Zika and Ebola.  This British technology, developed in Oxford but integrating incredible science from elsewhere in the UK, Europe and the US, could be part of a global solution in the fight against drug resistant infectious disease.”

Fighting pathogens with DNA information

The DNA sequence of bacteria, viruses or other pathogens can be used to determine their identity and whether it has resistance to antibiotics.  The portability of the MinION device means that it is being used in the field as well as the lab – for example a Brazilian and British team recently took the technology on a bus tour of North East Brazil to analyse local strains of the Zika virus.

The problem of the rising ability of pathogens to resist antibiotics (antimicrobial resistance, or AMR) was highlighted in the recent O’Neill report, which noted that two thirds of antibiotics are needlessly prescribed. The report called for better analysis of pathogens as part of an overall strategy to combat AMR.

Real time pathogen analysis

The MinION is the only portable, real-time DNA sequencer.  Users of the MinION can now prepare a DNA library in ten minutes for rapid analysis of a sample.  Oxford Nanopore will soon release a new analysis workflow, ARMA.  This uses the Comprehensive Antibiotic Resistance Database (CARD) to identify markers of antibiotic resistance in real time, and provides information about the relationship between those markers and the drugs that they confer resistance to.

For more information on nanopore sequencing and AMR please click here.

Oxford Nanopore is developing a workflow that will allow the analysis of genetic signatures that confer antibiotic resistance.