Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an urgent global health threat that develops when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to treatment. Globalisation, migration and (medical) tourism will inevitably lead to the world-wide spread of new (multi-)resistant mutant pathogens.
ITM is fighting this global threat through several research projects. One of these is the EDCTP-funded and ITM-led SIMBLE project, which aims to introduce a simplified, cheap and robust blood culture system. ‘Bactinsight’ can withstand tropical conditions such as dust, humidity and unreliable power supplies. It enables the diagnosis of bloodstream infections in low-resource settings, resulting in improved treatment and a reduction in the misuse of antibiotics. The system, which will be evaluated in Burkina Faso and Benin, is also affordable and easy to use. The project involves seven international partners in Europe and Africa.
Additionally, there is an increasing need for alternatives to antibiotics to prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis. In the FWO-funded Preventing Resistance in Gonorrhoea (PReGo) study researchers aim to better understand why resistance usually emerges in core-groups (populations with high rates of partner change) and develop new modalities to prevent the emergence of resistance. They developed a number of alternatives to antibiotics to treat and prevent a Neisseria gonorrhoeae infection, including bacteriophages and chlorhexidine mouthwash. In a paper published in 2021 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, ITM researchers concluded that mouthwash cannot be used to treat and prevent pharyngeal gonorrhoea. The research work is ongoing to find bacteriophages and bacteriocins that can eradicate N. gonorrhoeae.
Tackling AMR requires an interdisciplinary approach. The institute develops new diagnostic tools and treatment strategies, promotes responsible antibiotic stewardship and investigates human, social and cultural factors.