The ability to identify specific bacterial infections, and to characterise their antibiotic-resistance properties, could transform the use of antibiotics in clinical practice.
It is widely recognised that excessive antibiotic usage is promoting the spread of antibiotic resistance. Effective antibiotic stewardship is held back by the difficulty in distinguishing between viral and bacterial infections, and by the slow speed of conventional culture methods used to identify specific bacterial pathogens and their antibiotic resistance profiles. Diagnostic uncertainty typically leads to antibiotic overuse.
Diagnostics - particular rapid point-of-care diagnostics providing information on antibiotic resistance - are therefore seen as critical to the more rational use of antibiotics. Technological advances, particularly in genomics and miniaturisation, are driving rapid innovation in diagnostics, and novel tools are being piloted in clinical practice.
As well as the microbial causes of infection, new tools may generate important information on host responses to infection - which could potentially also be used to guide antibiotic-prescribing practice.