Response to O'Neill report on antimicrobial resistance

The final O'Neill report on antimicrobial resistance has been published today. The report provides disturbing illustrations of the risk of not addressing the global, growing issue of increasing antimicrobial resistance:

"The real implications of spreading drug resistance will be felt the world over, with developing countries and large emerging nations bearing the brunt of this problem. Routine surgeries and minor infections will become life- threatening once again and the hard won victories against infectious diseases of the last fifty years will be jeopardized. Hospital stays and expenses, for both public health care providers and for out of –pocket payers will increase significantly. Drug resistant infections are already on the rise with numbers suggesting that up to 50,000 lives are lost each year to antibiotic-resistant infections in Europe and the US alone. Globally, at least 700,000 die each year of drug resistance in illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/Aids or tuberculosis."

It provides ten recommendations; among these are the need for improved surveillance and rapid diagnostics at the point of care.

On rapid diagnostics, the report notes:

"Rapid diagnostics would be able to reduce use of antibiotics by letting doctors know if a patient has an infection and if this infection is viral or bacterial, meaning that antibiotics will only be given out to patients who need them. In the future rapid diagnostics should be able to test for resistance allowing doctors to give patients the most appropriate available medicine for them. This will not only improve direct outcomes, but it can also stop transmission rates by shortening the time that people are infectious for, and improving infection control and will allow us to protect our most valuable drugs by only using them when no other drugs will work. The information garnered from rapid diagnostics, might eventually allow doctors to improve treatment and infection control to such an extent that this places negative selective pressure on resistance pathogens, thus reducing resistance in older drugs."

Oxford Nanopore's MinION device is a portable DNA sequencer, which is being used for the analysis of pathogens and has been explored by many users for the real time identification of antimicrobial resistance.  Oxford Nanopore has released an alpha version of a workflow that allows MinION users to perform real-time detection of antibiotic-resistance genes using the MinION, and is preparing to release a full version of this workflow to the nanopore user community.

On the report, Gordon Sanghera, CEO of Oxford Nanopore said:

“The O’Neill report has shown that antimicrobial resistance is a global issue, and science and technology communities need to pull together and solve this before it becomes devastating for global populations. You really need to take technology to the source-whether that is an animal, a person or an environment-to identify the precise strain of bacteria that you are seeing and whether it has resistance properties. You can do this today using DNA analysis.  This information may inform which treatment to give and even to fight cultural expectation of antibiotics, and ultimately to perform surveillance and deploy better public health strategies.  Miniaturised electronic DNA analyses devices are part of this solution, but global co-ordination remains a huge challenge.”

Interested in using MinION? Get a MinION and starter pack for $1,000 here.