A UK-based charity prize of £8m ($10.2m) compiled to encourage the development of diagnostic tests that could determine if an infection is bacterial and the appropriate antibiotics, has been claimed by a Swedish university spin-out after ten years.

Offered by the British charity foundation, Nesta, the Longitude Prize on AMR was launched in 2014 with the goal of replacing the multiple-day lab tests currently required to determine what kind of bacteria is responsible for the infection, in hopes of cutting back on the prospect of medical staff prescribing broad antibiotics.

Now, after a ten-year competition as well as entries from more than 250 teams worldwide, Uppsala University spin-out, Sysmex Astrego, has swept the prize with its PA-100 AST System, a device designed for the treatment of urinary tract infections (UTI) using less than half a millilitre of urine and able to produce results in as little as fifteen minutes. The device is also able to determine which antibiotic should be used in as much as 45 minutes.

A potential increase in anti-microbial-resistant bugs would have an enormous impact on the healthcare and life sciences industries, with the United Nations (UN) predicting annual worldwide deaths due to drug-resistant bacteria will exceed 10 million by 2050.

Mikael Olsson, CEO, and co-founder of Sysmex Astrego said: “The PA-100 AST System challenges bacteria present in a patient’s urine with microscopic quantities of antibiotics in tiny channels embedded in a cartridge the size of a smartphone.

“We rapidly pinpoint whether a bacterial infection is present and identify which antibiotic will actually kill the bugs, guiding doctors only to prescribe antibiotics that will be effective. We have already started rolling out the test in Europe, we’re running studies in surgeries across the UK and working with regulators to secure additional approvals.

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“The £8m prize will support us to tailor the test for use with different kinds of UTIs and antibiotics, speeding up access for more patients.”

Research published by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that around 50–60% of women will develop UTIs in their lifetimes. Additional research by the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) found UTIs to be the most common bacterial infection treated by the NHS, with up to half of infection-causing bacteria being resistant to at least one antibiotic.

Sally Davies, UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, added: “The Longitude Prize winner lays the groundwork for a sea-change in how we manage these precious medicines, where healthcare workers are supported with rapid and relevant diagnostic tests to make the best decisions for their patients with confidence that they are prescribing the right drug, the first time.”

Elsewhere in the field of AMR, US sexual health diagnostic firm, Visby Medical has been granted $1.8m to develop a portable rapid diagnostic for gonorrhoea that includes tests for antibiotic susceptibility.