Symcel, Spånga, Sweden, has teamed up with TiKa Diagnostics, London, and St. George’s University of London for the use of its microcalorimetry technology to detect antimicrobial-resistant mycobacteria and to study the therapeutic potential of antimicrobial peptides.

Rapid detection of antimicrobial resistance will be directed toward optimizing efforts to control the prevalence and spread of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). The partners also consider the development of such novel agents as antimicrobial peptides to combat superbugs and interfere with biofilm formation to be a key necessity.

The project between Symcel and TiKa Diagnostics, a spin-out from St. George’s University of London, has the potential to enable rapid Mtb culture confirmation, reducing detection time from the average of 12 to 14 days required using conventional culture testing techniques to just 2 to 6 days. Faster detection will improve the ability of clinicians to accurately predict optimal antibiotic treatments for patients.

Under the partnership, Symcel’s novel detection system will be combined with TiKa Diagnostics’ new method of sample preparation and mycobacterium growth enhancement.

Symcel’s CalScreener is a multichannel microcalorimetry system for antimicrobial susceptibility testing. The technology, which measures heat for accurate diagnostics, has been shown to be 1,000 times more sensitive than fluorescence, enabling much faster detection. TiKa Diagnostics has discovered a compound able to speed up the growth of slow-growing pathogenic mycobacteria in cell culture, increasing recovery rates and test sensitivity, and reducing contamination levels from 20% to just 1%.

Magnus Jannsson, Symcel.

Magnus Jannsson, Symcel.

“By utilizing our CalScreener assay, it is possible to more accurately measure the survival rates of superbugs—overcoming the problem of it often being unclear whether cells are alive or dead,” says Magnus Jansson, chief scientific officer at Symcel. “Moreover, our technology enables the live, real-time monitoring of the metabolic state of superbugs.”

One CalScreener machine has been installed at a biosafety category 3 facility at TiKa Diagnostics. The technology is being tested for use in the detection and antimicrobial susceptibility testing of Mtb, the cause of tuberculosis in humans; Mycobacterium bovis, the cause of tuberculosis in cattle that can sometimes be passed to humans; and the Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), the cause of Johne’s disease, which reduces the milk production and reproductive capabilities of cows.

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Symcel and to provide a new research model in the field of antimicrobial susceptibility testing, one which combines our novel substance with their innovative technology,” says Kai Hilpert, Dr rer nat, director at TiKa Diagnostics. “We are confident that this is set to provide the healthcare market with a solution that will enable patients to obtain the right treatment faster. It is also likely to enable a greater proportion of patients suffering from tuberculosis to receive a confirmational diagnosis using direct bacterial cell culture.”

Symcel’s technology has also been installed at a biosafety category 2 facility at St. George’s University of London that is dedicated to the development of new drug treatments that work specifically on multidrug resistant bacteria. CalScreener will be used to study antimicrobial peptides and their interaction with superbugs. It will also test the surface modification of plastics to prevent biofilm formation and the capability of antimicrobial peptides to cause the destruction of existing biofilms.

“We are delighted to have partnered with TiKa Diagnostics and St. George’s University of London for research into these critically important fields,” says Christer Wallin, CEO of Symcel. “Indeed, we look forward to working with them to show the beneficial impact of our CalScreener technology and calorimetry approach for highly efficient, highly accurate, and fast detection of antimicrobial resistance.”

For more information, visit Symcel.