Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common hospital-acquired infections in the U.S. UTIs can be quite painful, and since it usually it takes a lab about two to three days to identify the specific bacteria causing a patient’s infection, most doctors don’t want to wait that long to treat it. Instead, they make an educated guess as to which antibiotic to administer. Given that approximately 80 percent of UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria, there’s a good chance the physician will choose an appropriate antibiotic. But that means that 20 percent of those patients may receive an ineffective or non-optimal antibiotic. And even if E. coli is the culprit, an increasing number of E. coli strains have become resistant to commonly used treatments, such as ciprofloxacin (e.g., Cipro). According to a recent Modern Healthcare article, E. coli strains are resistant to Cipro in about 30 percent of patients for whom it is prescribed.
Startup company ID Genomics says its mission is “to guide antibiotic prescription choices correctly the first time by matching the infecting bug with the correct drug.” The company’s rapid diagnostic tool, CLoNeT, “assigns proprietary ‘barcodes’ to infecting bacteria by identifying a few fingerprint regions of bacterial DNA.” Once the bacteria have been identified, the “barcode” is matched against the company’s BactNeT microbial surveillance database of individual bacterial strains’ antibiotic resistance profiles to help the physician choose the most effective antibiotic to prescribe.
That database is being compiled in partnership with a consortium of healthcare providers and with funding from a three-year, $3 million grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The consortium members will help ID Genomics populate the database. Company founder Dr. Evengi Sokurenko said in the Modern Healthcare article, “It is like we are creating a criminal dossier of bacterial strains. Just based on the fingerprint we can already say what is the best way to deal with it and what antibiotics should be used.” The article also reports that CLoNeT is awaiting FDA approval for clinical use and the consortium members will help the company refine the technology, making the test data easier for physicians to understand “so they can analyze the results quickly and accurately” in clinical settings.
According to ID Genomics, early-stage, urgent-care clinical trials conducted in partnership with GroupHealth Research Institute in Seattle, Washington, show that the first-generation CLoNeT diagnostic tests deliver results in 25-40 minutes and reduce the antibiotic prescription error rate for UTIs from 25 percent to less than 3 percent.
Although the first-generation tests target UTIs, the company says its unique barcoding approach “has broad applicability to diverse pathogens” and the potential to improve clinical outcomes for other diseases that face increasing antibiotic resistance. ID Genomics also asserts that its technology will help identify global infection outbreaks.
In a press release regarding the launch of the consortium, James R. Johnson, MD, Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota and an infectious diseases specialist at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis, which is a member of the consortium, said, “The importance of having such a universal epidemiological surveillance resource linking bacterial DNA fingerprints with drug resistance profiles as part of point-of-care diagnostics can’t be overstated. With this novel approach, the global health community will have a powerful new tool to rapidly diagnose, treat and contain the spread of multidrug-resistant bacteria, and also to identify drug-susceptible strains that can be treated safely with traditional, inexpensive antibiotics.”