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Antimicrobial Resistance crisis needs better diagnostics

Tue, February 22nd 2022

“Better, faster diagnostics will be central to tackling Antimicrobial Resistance in the future,” said ProtonDx Founder & Director, Asst Professor Jesus Rodriguez-Manzano, at a recent FORUM event organised by the Academy of Medical Sciences

Antimicrobial Resistance crisis needs better diagnostics

Antimicrobial Resistance, AMR, presents a serious global threat to the prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic has required unprecedented coordination of research, technology, regulation, infrastructure and the workforce, and rapid adoption of new public health processes. As an emerging global and cross-sector challenge, tackling AMR requires a similarly concerted effort. The response to the pandemic provides insight into the research and policy priorities that are required to tackle AMR.

In a recently published summary of the workshop the following four themes are emphasised:

  1. ⁠COVID-19 and AMR have much in common, with some key differences. Both are major public health challenges requiring rapid coordinated global action. AMR is a highly complex, multifaceted problem acting over a long period of time - similar to the threat from climate change.
  2. Multidisciplinary research communities came together at unprecedented levels of coordination and collaboration that need to be replicated to fight AMR.
  3. COVID-19 responses were highly effective where the UK was already strong in fields like vaccine research and genomics are strengths, however, a broader array of research areas need to be nurtured to provide a solid base for combatting AMR.
  4. Patients and public involvement proved to be crucial components in efforts to contain COVID and will be essential in our response to AMR.

The summary explores options for tackling AMR under two major headings:

  • ⁠Diagnostics and surveillance
  • ⁠Rapid development and response mechanisms for approval of vaccines and therapeutics

The report highlights that the diagnostics industry is more fragmented than the pharmaceutical industry and was not sufficiently prioritised early in the pandemic. Mechanism are needed to provide access to clinical samples and collections of resistant micro-organisms to accelerate diagnostic development.

Regulatory pathways for diagnostics are complex and often slow and need to be improved through dialogue between regulators and other stakeholders.

Many diagnostic platforms have been developed for COVID-19 in a burst of innovation that could be harnessed to deliver more tools to support AMR responses.

In addition, the widespread public acceptance of testing during the pandemic offers opportunities to capture AMR-relevant data directly from communities and to integrate AMR screening into wider healthcare functions.

Diagnostic development takes place in a complex environment, requiring input from many stakeholders, including researchers, product developers, funders, clinicians, public health professionals, patients and the public. Technical innovations will not succeed unless an integrated view is taken of the needs and interests of these different players, with cross-sectoral collaborations at the heart of product development.

“Better, faster diagnostics will lead us to the global equity in diagnostics provision required to tackle antimicrobial resistance,” commented Jesus Rodriguez-Manzano on the workshop. Adding that the work being carried out by ProtonDx to develop a hand-held, rapid, very accurate diagnostic instrument for assay of several pathogens at the same time will provide a major contribution to the response to AMR.

The virtual FORUM workshop was organised by the Department of Health and Social Care, the National Institute for Health Research with the Academy of Medical Sciences. It convened experts from academia, healthcare, public health, industry, policy, funding and regulation, as well as public and patient representatives. It was co-chaired by Professor Sharon Peacock CBE FMedSci, Executive Director and Chair of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium, and Professor Alison Holmes OBE FMedSci, Director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Healthcare Associated Infections and AMR and the Centre for Antimicrobial Optimisation. Alison Holmes and Jesus Rodrigues-Manzano are Professor and Asst Professor of Imperial College London.

The AMS summary is here https://acmedsci.ac.uk/file-download/43400113 A full report will follow.