Joining the fight against antimicrobial resistance

Rapid detection of AMR in clinical samples is now possible


The spread of bacteria resistant to antibiotics is a growing threat to public health. It is estimated that there are five types of infections caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and 33,000 people die each year as a direct consequence of an infection due to antibiotic resistance.

The burden of these antimicrobial infections is comparable to influenza, TB and HIV/AIDS combined. As a result, 39 per cent of this burden is due to infections from bacteria that are resistant to last-line antibiotics, carbapenems and colistin. When these are no longer effective, it can become impossible to treat infections.

Meanwhile, there are a lack of rapid tests available to identify resistant bacteria in clinical samples. Current tests take between 16 to 30 hours, which delays the prescription of appropriate antibiotic treatment for patients. This is coupled with a lack of standardised diagnosis pathways to tackle AMR.

Fast detection of multi-drug resistant bacteria

The AMR-DetecTool has been designed so clinical microbiology laboratories can quickly test for resistant bacteria. The tool is highly sensitive, making it able to directly detect the beta-lactamase enzymes produced by bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

The tool consists of a strip in a disposable device made of plastic, making it a fast and affordable solution. The relevant sample is deposited onto the strip. When the sample is in contact with the strip, it flows along, passing through a pad containing antibodies. If bacteria is present in the sample, the antibodies will bind to it, recognising the test line and a control line, and coloured bands will appear. If no bacteria are present, the antibodies will only react with the control line and a single band will appear. Results can be read by the naked eye after 15 minutes.

The detection device will link to an online AMR database that will integrate decision-making strategies for AMR diagnosis and management from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). This will help with more targeted screening and patient treatment, to establish a more efficient, cost-effective pathway for patients in hospitals.

EIT Health support helps the team over innovation pitfalls

Members of the AMR-DetecTool consortium, including ten hospitals, were brought together by EIT Health in 2018. With EIT Health’s help, the team received funding, exposure to a network of innovators in the field, and a demanding external project reporting environment.

The AMR-DetecTool is so easy to use that no special skills or expensive equipment are needed, helping to establish standard detection procedures, while delivering time and cost efficiencies.

Vitally, it will limit the number of antibiotics prescribed, as well as advance proper hygiene measures to avoid the spread and extra costs of hospital-based infections. There is an exciting future for this tool, and the team are planning to launch a cost-effectiveness study to determine the scale of efficiencies it could make to healthcare systems.

Find out more

See the project website.


| Researcher | CEA