The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded more than $11 million in first-year funding for nine research projects supporting enhanced diagnostics to rapidly detect antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.

The awardee institutions will develop tools to identify certain pathogens that frequently cause infections in healthcare settings and, specifically, those that are resistant to most antimicrobials. Advancing the development of rapid and innovative diagnostic tests for identifying and characterizing resistant bacteria is a key goal of President Obama’s National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

Antimicrobials have been successfully used to treat patients for more than 70 years, but the drugs have become less effective as organisms have adapted to the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the United States, more than 2 million people develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 people die as a result, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Antibiotic-resistant infections also contribute to rising healthcare costs due to the need for more expensive treatments and prolonged hospital stays.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global health threat that is undermining our ability to effectively detect, treat, and prevent infections,” says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, MD. “One way we can combat drug resistance is by developing enhanced diagnostic tests that rapidly identify the bacteria causing an infection and their susceptibility to various antimicrobials. This will help physicians determine the most effective treatments for infected individuals, and thereby reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics that can contribute to the drug resistance problem.”

Each of the institutions receiving an NIAID award will develop a diagnostic tool that identifies and provides corresponding antibiotic susceptibility information for one or more of the following bacteria: Acinetobacter baumannii, Enterobacter species, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, or Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The current process for diagnosing some bacterial infections can take up to 3 days, and requires that patient samples be sent to labs where the suspected bacteria is cultured, or grown in a special medium. To make this process more rapid and efficient, diagnostic tools developed by the grantee institutions must provide results in 3 hours or less and be culture-independent (able to directly detect the specified pathogen from typically sterile sites, such as blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or the fluid surrounding the lungs).

The NIAID awards were made to three companies and six academic organizations. Each academic organization partnered with an industrial institution with demonstrated experience in product development to be eligible for the award. The recipient institutions, project names, and principal investigators are as follows.

BioFire Diagnostics, Salt Lake City
FilmArray direct: rapid diagnosis of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens from blood
Andrew Hemmert, PhD; Wendy Smith, PhD

Brigham Young University
Multiplexed, nonamplified, nucleic acid-based identification of multidrug-resistant pathogens using an integrated optofluidic platform
Aaron R. Hawkins, PhD; William Pitt, PhD; Richard Robison, PhD; Adam Woolley, PhD (Brigham Young University); Holger Schmidt, PhD (University of California, Santa Cruz); Robert Jenison, Larry Rea (Great Basin Corp)

Denver Health and Hospital Authority
Ultrarapid culture-independent detection of high-priority carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae directly from blood
Connie Savor Price, MD (Denver Health and Hospital Authority); Steve Metzger (Accelerate Diagnostics)

First Light Biosciences, Bedford, Mass
Rapid detection of pathogens and antimicrobial susceptibility directly in patient samples
Don Straus, PhD; Sadanand Gite, PhD

GeneFluidics, Irwindale, Calif
A fully integrated CentriFluidic system for direct bloodstream infection PID/AST
Vincent Gau, PhD

Johns Hopkins University
A droplet-based single cell platform for pathogen identification and AST
Tza-Huei (Jeff) Wang, PhD (Johns Hopkins University); Joseph C. Liao, MD (Stanford University School of Medicine)

The Broad Institute, MIT; Harvard
RNA-based diagnostics for rapid pathogen identification and drug resistance
Deborah T. Hung, MD, PhD (The Broad Institute)

University of California, Berkeley
Consortium for drug-resistant gram-negative pathogen detection
Lee W. Riley, MD; Luke P. Lee, PhD; Niren Murthy, PhD

University of California, Irvine
Integrated comprehensive droplet digital detection (IC 3D) system for rapid detection of bacteria and antimicrobial resistance
Weian Zhao, PhD

For further information, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.