RESEARCHERS from University of Southampton are looking at ways to rapidly treat antibiotic resistant infections.

After receiving £2.8million to fund new research facilities and laboratories as part of £32million awarded to ten sites nationally by the Department of Health and Social Care, a team of experts from the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) are assessing technology at University Hospital Southampton to develop ground-breaking methods of detecting or diagnosing antibiotic resistant bacteria.

There is a huge concern that new strains of bacteria may emerge that are resistant to all existing antibiotics.

University Hospital Southampton and the University of Southampton's Global Network for Anti-Microbial Resistance and Infection Prevention (UoS NAMRIP) therefore aim to tackle the threat of the infection, which kills over 5,000 people in the UK every year - which is increasing in numbers annually.

Located at Southampton General Hospital, researchers at the laboratories will work with consultants and services including adult and children’s medicine, major surgery, infectious diseases and emergency care.

Professor Tim Leighton, director of UoS NAMRIP, said: “This award is a huge achievement and we are extremely grateful to the Department of Health and Social Care. This is an enormous opportunity to close the loop of researchers working with end users to define the key problems and opportunities to address AMR, conduct ground-breaking research to address those, and then progress to end users who can ensure breakthroughs are translated out to benefit on a societal scale.”

Professor Hywel Morgan and ECS colleagues are developing a rapid 30-minute test to find out if patient samples with a urine infection contains a resistant infection.

He said: “The research builds upon work previously funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) which extracted the bacteria from the urine and then extracted the DNA from which we identified genes that tell us if the bacteria are resistant.

“This research uses a digital microfluidic platform and is a collaboration with Public Health England (PHE). We are also developing a simple and rapid anti-microbial susceptibility test, AST for short, that can be used on any patient samples. This test looks at the direct response of the bacteria to an antibiotic to determine whether they are resistant or not.”

Southampton is already at the forefront of world-leading clinical research in infectious diseases through studies such as the use of genetically-modified harmless bacteria to dislodge strains that cause life-threatening meningitis.