‘Technology can help GPs in antibiotic resistance battle’ says Cambridge Consultants

PUBLISHED: 11:30 20 October 2017 | UPDATED: 09:19 23 October 2017

Carmelo Volpe at Cambridge Consultants on the Science Park with his concept. Picture: Keith Heppell

Carmelo Volpe at Cambridge Consultants on the Science Park with his concept. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

Dr Carmelo Volpe calls for lab diagnosis in the GP surgery

Bringing state-of-the-art lab diagnosis into GP surgeries is vital to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, according to Cambridge Consultants.

Dr Carmelo Volpe, head of clinical diagnostics at the company, says doctors need “point-of-care” testing in GP surgeries that matches the quality and reliability of laboratory testing to meet the challenge of antimicrobial resistance, described by England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies as a “post-antibiotic apocalypse”.

She said that if antibiotics lose their effectiveness it will spell “the end of modern medicine”, adding: “We need some real work on the ground to make a difference or we risk the end of modern medicine.”

Dr Volpe said: “Reliable point-of-care testing in the GP surgery will allow GPs to have a robust diagnosis of a patient’s condition within minutes – this makes the treatment decision straightforward and reduces unnecessary prescriptions due to misdiagnosis.

“Reliable testing for bacterial infections may also be used to improve the management of patient expectations when it comes to treatment decisions for antibiotics.”

He told the Cambridge Independent technology is available to help clinicians make more informed decisions but that point-of-care devices must become cheaper, more reliable and easier to use to promote widespread uptake in surgeries.

“There are lower-cost instruments that point you in the right direction but do not give a definitive answer,” he said. “The challenge is finding a cheap, quick test that gives the comprehensive information needed to make a clinical decision.”

Ideally, he said tests should not exceed the total time of a consultation, about 15-20 minutes, they should cover a reasonably wide selection of biomarkers, and they must be easy to use – for example, requiring finger pricking rather taking larger blood sample volumes.

In recent years, the UK has led a drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance. Around 700,000 people worldwide die each year due to drug-resistant infections with estimates that figure could rise to millions by 2050.

The World Health Organisation warned last month that antibiotics are “running out” as a report found a “serious lack” of new drugs in the development pipeline.

Cambridge Consultants is working on that pipeline. Dr Volpe said: “There are projects ongoing where we are taking some technology that could potentially be used as point-of-care devices. That technology lives in the lab and we are making it easier to use and more reliable.

“It takes two to three years to develop from an initial concept, and we are talking a four- to five-year window until it could be used as a point-of-care device.

“We work with customers who want to develop these products. We are very much an enabler and a partner to work with.

“Finding ways to reduce the price of point-of-care diagnostic devices and increase their use in GP surgeries is a huge opportunity in the battle against antibiotic resistance.”

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