A new bedside test being developed could save lives and help reduce the spread of resistance to antibiotics around the world.
Professor Sarah Hook from the University of Otago has received a $150,000 explorer grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to create a test that doctors could use to quickly find out if a strain of bacteria would be resistant to a particular antibiotic.
Hook said, if successful, the system would dramatically change how antibiotics were prescribed.
"Our test will enable doctors to determine drug resistance faster than they can at present and allow them to switch to an effective drug, potentially saving the patient's life," she said.
The speed of the test would also allow doctors to prescribe more targeted antibiotics rather than using broad-spectrum ones. This would slow the spread of resistance to those drugs which were often used as a last resort.
Health Research Council chief executive Professor Kath McPherson said infectious diseases were one of the largest causes of hospital admissions in the country but there had been a rise in resistance of some types of infections.
"It's just this type of innovative and unconventional thinking that we're going to need to tackle the huge global threat of antibiotic resistance," McPherson said
New Zealand Medical Association president Stephen Child said it would be an important tool for fighting a "really, really important problem".
He said it was absolutely crucial that the unnecessary usage of antibiotics was reduced.
"Some people have suggested [antibiotic resistance] is one of the biggest threats to human health."
The Health Research Council today announced 11 explorer grants worth a combined total of $1.65 million, including a project to develop fully functioning, vascularised skin using 3D bioprinting for treating non-healing wounds such as pressure sores and a study that will use locally sourced natural polymers and bioceramics to restore and potentially regrow teeth.
How the antibiotic resistance test works:
The test involves treating the patient with a test dose of antibiotic that is delivered in a nanoparticle along with an inactive ''reporter''.
If bacteria are sensitive to an antibiotic, the reporter will become active.
Doctors can then detect this activated reporter in a drop of blood taken from the patient using a handheld device similar to what is used for testing glucose levels.