Research ArticleBACTERIAL IMAGING

A rapid antimicrobial susceptibility test based on single-cell morphological analysis

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Science Translational Medicine  17 Dec 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 267, pp. 267ra174
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009650

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Microbes Get in Shape for Antibiotic Testing

Conventional tests that measure bacteria susceptibility to antibiotics rely on a change in occupied area. Thus, a positive change in area indicates that the bacteria is growing and is resistant to the drug, right? Not always: Bacteria can also take on different shapes, such as filaments, or swell; these changes increase the area, but the bug is still susceptible to the antibiotic. Choi et al. therefore devised an imaging-based antibiotic susceptibility test (AST) that factors in changes in morphology, to rapidly determine whether single bacteria, confined to microwells, respond to various drugs. The authors looked at four standard strains, including antibiotic-resistant pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), as well as clinical samples, in response to dozens of different antibiotics used in the clinic. The single-cell morphology AST performed as well as the gold standard, culture-based broth microdilution test, with read-out in only 4 hours. Such a rapid and accurate screen could improve time-to-answer in the clinic by avoiding conventional culture methods, thus allowing for faster decision making in administering proper antibiotics to patients.

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