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PublISHED ON 16 April 2020

UpDATED ON 09 June 2020

Sofia Somajo is researching a new method for determining bacteria resistance

Today, it can take up to five days from taking a sample to knowing whether a bacterium is resistant to antibiotics or not – but soon it might be possible to get a much quicker answer.

Sofia Somajo

Sofia Somajo, biomedical analyst

Sofia Somajo, a biomedical analyst at Clinical Microbiology in Karlskrona, has received a grant from the Swedish Research Council to develop a new, faster method for determining resistance. Finding out quickly whether a bacterium is resistant to one or several types of antibiotics is important work, and something that Sweden is good at.

As a biomedical analyst, Sofia Somajo works with analysing patient samples. She was awarded a grant under the Swedish Research Council’s 2018 call for research time for clinicians within antibiotics resistance, which has given her the opportunity to combine her work at the clinic with research. The call was made within the framework of the National Programme on antibiotic resistance, assigned to the Swedish Research Council.

“The aim of the research is to contribute to the patient getting the right antibiotic quicker, and to make it easier for us to discover and prevent resistant bacteria from spreading in hospitals and in society,” says Sofia Somajo.

“The grant means that I can work in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I am doing research, but am still close to the patients and can utilise improvement opportunities straight away. Where I work, it is important to drive method development and research forward, which has given me the chance to combine both parts.”

An answer within 30 minutes

Sofia Somajo works together with a research team at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Part of the research is about developing a method for rapid determination of bacterial resistance. In this part, the research team is working on a broad front, seeking a general method to suit many different types of bacteria and antibiotics.

“We have been able to get an answer about a bacterium’s resistance within 30 minutes. In the long term, the method may contribute to a better tool for determining resistance. The aim is to conduct a larger multinational evaluation of this method, developed by our colleagues in Perth.”

In the work on the new method, Sofia Somajo and her colleagues have sometimes noted differences in results compared to when they use conventional methods. These are the differences she is studying in the second part of her research.

“There are areas where we have problems today, and the current methods are not optimal. There might, for example, be antibiotic substances that break down easily, or that bind together with our analysis material. Or new substances where there is no fixed method as yet. By continuously improving diagnostics and questioning old truths, we can sharpen our tools even further.”

The reference laboratory in Kronoberg handles bacteria from all over Sweden

After determining the resistance, bacteria can be sorted according to a three-grade scale (SIR scale), which states whether a bacterium is susceptible to a normal dose (S), susceptible to an increased dose (I), or resistant to a formula (R), which is important to know when selecting treatment.

“We receive bacteria from clinical laboratories all over Sweden,” says Sofia Somajo. Examples of these are bacteria that are difficult to interpret using ordinary methods, bacteria where no method for determining resistance has as yet been set, or bacteria for which it is particularly important to obtain a precise value.

Clinical Microbiology in Kronoberg and Blekinge is a national reference laboratory for antibiotics resistance, and conducts resistance determination using methods according to EUCAST (European Committee on Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing). In total, the reference laboratory analyses between 50 and 100 samples per month, depending on season.

Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem

Bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics are a growing problem, which causes both increased morbidity and mortality, and also increased costs for society. If the resistant bacteria are not counteracted, the basis for today’s modern healthcare for both humans and animals will crumble, and mortality as a result of infections will increase.

Source: Strategic research agenda (in Swedish)

The Swedish Research Council is responsible for a research programme within antibiotic resistance

The programme has a broad, multidisciplinary and multisectoral perspective, and supports all research relating to antibiotic resistance – both basic research and more applied research.

More about the national research programme within antibiotic resistance

We host the JPIAMR Secretariat

The Swedish Research Council hosts the secretariat for of JPIAMR, the Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance. JPIAMR is a global collaborative platform, engaging 28 member nations to curb antibiotic resistance (AMR) with a One Health approach. The initiative coordinates national funding to support transnational research and activities within the six priority areas of the shared JPIAMR Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda – therapeutics, diagnostics, surveillance, transmission, environment and interventions.

More about the JPIAMR Secretariat

PUBLISHED ON 16 April 2020

UpDATED ON 09 June 2020

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