Imagine the crowd at the Super Bowl. It might sound incredible, but as many as 25,000 people - that equates to one-third of those spectators packed into Levi’'s Stadium - die every year due to infections by antibiotics-resistant bacteria in the European Union alone. This problem, and the quest to solve it, didn't appear overnight. Although diagnostic procedures already exist to spot potential resistance in advance, they are very time-consuming. This led researchers at the Center for Bioinformatics at Saarland University to join forces with diagnostics developer Curetis to search for a faster means of flagging up dangerous strains with resistance. The clout that this partnership wields stems from an extensive genetic database and powerful algorithms. At CeBIT 2017, Curetis and the research group from Saarbrücken are showcasing the quick tests they have already developed and offering a glimpse of the future.
The aim of the joint project is to not only detect resistance more quickly but also more comprehensively. "It's like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle," says Andreas Keller, Professor for Clinical Bioinformatics in Saarbrücken. He calculates that the data volume trawled so far equates to almost 500,000 Bibles. His algorithms and preliminary results look promising. "We can already predict resistance with 85 percent accuracy," says Keller. The pieces for this gigantic jigsaw are all stored in GEAR, a database that Curetis acquired in 2016. It contains around 11,000 bacteria strains and the reaction patterns to 21 antibiotics, which have been isolated during the last three decades from tests with patients worldwide. And as resistance to old and new antibiotics constantly keeps on developing, the GEAR database will record these dynamics. "Resistance to antibiotics is one of the most urgent problems in healthcare worldwide, and a concerted effort is required to tackle the issue. We intend to expand GEAR in a tripartite forum on resistance to antibiotics that spans scientific research, public healthcare and industry," explains Achim Plum, Chief Commercial Officer of Curetis.