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Antibiotic resistance testing can now be done up to ten times faster thanks to collaboration between UCLL and Occhio

15 September 2021

When someone with a bacterial infection presents himself, the treating doctor can first test which antibiotics still work for that particular patient. This process currently takes eight to twelve hours - an eternity when it comes to a patient's state of health. UCLL University of Applied Sciences and the SME Occhio have now developed a device that can determine antibiotic resistance from as little as one hour.

UC Leuven - Limburg

Dr. Apr. Maarten Hendrickx, UCLL project leader: "A faster determination is not only important for the patient, but in the fight against antibiotic resistance it will make a big difference for all of us in the long run."

The Sustainable Resources expertise center at UCLL Research & Expertise has developed a fully automatic device to detect antibiotic resistance in a short period of time in collaboration with the company Occhio, an expert in precision instruments.  It quickly and accurately determines which antibiotics are already resistant and with which the patient can still be treated. Doctors will be able to find out up to ten times faster which antibiotics can still affect their patients and which cannot.

More options for the patient

With quick access to test results, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics will be able to be reduced in many cases. Dr. Maarten Hendrickx, UCLL: "Currently, the treating physician administers them out of necessity because it is often impossible to wait to treat the infection. This administration can, in turn, promote resistance to this broad range of antibiotics, resulting in fewer treatment options for the patient. So every hour you gain in this process is profit."

Fighting antibiotic resistance

To maintain the efficacy of antibiotics, they must be used correctly and only when needed. The more they are used, the more likely bacteria will become resistant and the drug will eventually become ineffective. Dr. Apr. Maarten Hendrickx, UCLL: "A faster determination of antibiotic resistance makes a difference not only for that one patient, but for all of us."

College and SME

The research into a faster antibiotic resistance test started four years ago. To this end, the university college and the SME Occhio, an expert in precision instruments, collaborated in the laboratories of UCL's Campus Gasthuisberg in Leuven. Christian Godino, CEO Occhio: "Today, with UCLL and Occhio, we are outperforming even the most recent competing devices. These often need about eight to twelve hours to deliver a test result, while the new partnership generates a result from the state-of-the-art device as early as one hour."

Towards research and clinical labs

Concrete steps are therefore currently being taken to implement the device in research and clinical laboratories of hospitals. For example, a collaboration was recently started with the Laboratory Medicine UZ Leuven. UCLL Research & Expertise and Occhio have joined forces for this purpose: the university college provides the further development of the device and the necessary training to get to work with the devices from its Sustainable Resources expertise center. Occhio takes care of the distribution of the devices and the technical support at the end customer. "This unique collaboration between our research group and an SME such as Occhio ensures that research results can quickly find their application in research and clinical laboratories," said Dr. Apr. Maarten Hendrickx, UCLL project leader.

State-of-the-art for students

The Biomedical Laboratory Technology and Chemistry students of the university college are also already working with the device during their studies. Dr. Apr. Maarten Hendrickx himself also teaches in these courses: "Thanks to the research running at UCLL Research & Expertise, we have this state-of-the-art device at our disposal and our students get unique opportunities to participate in its development."

The entire project was appropriately named 'FAST' (Fast Antibiotic Susceptibility Test).

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