Rapid Test for Bacterial Infections Wins Horizon Prize: Look for it in 2018


The European Union Horizon Prize was awarded to MINICARE HNL last week for a “finger prick test” that allows for rapid detection and diagnosis of bacterial infections in under ten minutes.

The fight against antibiotic resistance has led to a number of efforts from researchers and organizations around the world to both promote awareness of the issue, develop a number of antimicrobial stewardship programs to cut down on the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, and award prizes to researchers who make headway in improving the use of antibiotics.

One such prize is the European Union (EU) Horizon Prize, and last week it was awarded to MINICARE HNL for a “finger prick test” that allows for the rapid detection and diagnosis of a bacterial infection in under ten minutes. These rapid results would allow healthcare practitioners to ascertain if their patient needs to be treated with antibiotics or not, and would be a move towards decreasing unnecessary precautionary antibiotic prescriptions. The test is the result of a collaborative effort made by Diagnostics Development, P&M Venge company, and PHILIPS Electronics and is estimated to be made available by 2018.

Since antibiotics were first introduced, they have served as active agents in significantly reducing the death toll caused by infectious diseases; many infections that were once thought to be a death sentence, are now treatable. However, over time many bacteria have managed to develop resistance against the antibiotics that are currently available. In fact, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is responsible for about 25,000 deaths and subsequently, $1.5 billion in healthcare costs in Europe alone. For these reasons, AMR is one of the most pressing challenges that our society faces today.

In order to bring new, innovative developments in this area of healthcare, the EU posed a challenge to researchers in order to receive the €1 million Horizon Prize for better use of antibiotics. The challenge was to “develop a rapid test to identify, at the point of care, patients with upper respiratory tract infections that can be treated safely without antibiotics.”

To this end, MINICARE HNL developed an easy-to-use, cost-effective, and rapid diagnostics test based on Phillips’ Minicare I-20 handheld diagnostics platform that was developed to effectively identify the human neutrophil lipocalin (HNL) biomarker in just one “finger-prick blood sample.” Within minutes, the new test is able to differentiate between viral infections that don’t need antibiotics, and acute bacterial infections that might need them; the results are then displayed on a handheld analyzer.

In a press release, Marcel van Kasteel, CEO of Handheld Diagnostics at Philips, commented, “This prize is a great recognition of how collaboration can lead to innovative diagnostic solutions that improve patient care. The HNL program for detection of bacterial infections perfectly fits with our ‘open platform’ strategy of bringing innovative biomarker content onto the Minicare I-20 platform in order to offer healthcare professionals a panel of relevant tests for acute settings. Activities are ongoing to further develop the HNL test for eventual implementation in routine clinical practice.”

Philips also has CE marking—which shows that the product meets “high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements—for its Minicare I-20 based cardiac tropin I (cTnl) blood test for the rapid point-of-care diagnosis of heart attack.” Currently, they are in the process of developing further tests for acute care settings.

This new test has the potential to go a long way in furthering the effects of antimicrobial stewardship to combat antibiotic resistance, something that is sorely needed. A recent study found that between 2010-2011 a staggering 47 million antibiotics were being prescribed for viral infections such as common colds, sore throats, and sinus/ear infections. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress that for the aforementioned infections, antibiotics are not the answer, and in fact, antibiotics, “will not cure the infection, will not keep other people from getting sick, will not help you feel better, may cause unnecessary and harmful side effects,” and, perhaps most importantly, can contribute to antibiotic resistance. The more that these antibiotics are given unnecessarily, the more chances pathogens have to develop resistance to available drugs. However, awards like this one bring awareness to this serious issue and work to remind everyone how important it is to “get smart” about antibiotics.

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