"Modern medicine is underpinned by antibiotic use, and it’s a huge issue that bacteria are becoming resistant. The phrase ‘your infection can’t be treated’ is a little too close to reality."

Exploring answers to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance

Bacteria which were previously susceptible to antibiotic treatment have evolved to develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics, rendering them ineffective to combat infection.

Now there are fewer antibiotics available to treat patients with certain infections.

Hence, there is a global drive not only to discover new antibiotics to combat these bacteria but also to develop new types of diagnostics that can help diagnose infection at the point of care.

In 2013, a total of 27 million prescriptions for antibiotics were given to patients in the UK when only 13 million were needed; and this doesn’t take into account the ease with which antibiotics can be purchased over the counter in certain countries and their use in agriculture globally. This overuse and misuse is contributing to the problem.

 

Through her research Dr Joshi, based in the Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed), is developing a diagnostic device that is able to specifically detect antimicrobial resistant (AMR) genes from pathogens at point-of-care, all within the time frame of a doctor’s appointment – just five minutes. 

The technology aims to reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics in the GP surgery and to detect antibiotic-resistant infections rapidly. 

Eventually hoped to fit into a device the size of a mobile phone, the diagnostic technology utilises two components – a rapid microwave DNA extraction methodology, and aptamer-based sandwich assay. 

“I’m currently focusing the first iterations of my detection device on antibiotic resistant urinary tract pathogen E. coli as, in the UK, one in four people are infected with it. Being able to detect it will enable a doctor to prescribe a relevant antibiotic or another course of treatment, rather than giving something that won’t work."

<p>3D illustration of bacteria E. Coli - image courtesy of Getty Images<br></p>
E. Coli pathogen
<p> Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria - image courtesy of Getty Images<br></p>
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Images courtesy of Getty Images

High accolade from home

In 2018 Dr Joshi received the 'Jewel of India' award from the Indian Government in recognition of her international impact in the field of molecular microbiology. 

Known as Hind Rattan, the ‘Jewel of India’, the award is given to non-resident Indians (NRI) who have made a significant contribution to their country of birth and simultaneously ‘held the Flag of India high.’

I’m incredibly proud to have received the honour and hope that by ‘flying the flag’ in the UK and India, I can help to develop research collaborations between the countries. Antimicrobial resistance is a worldwide problem – by 2050, it’s predicted that 10 million people will die from it, so the more we can do to raise awareness and find ways of combatting the problem, the more we’ll be helping people around the globe.

 

Prime time focus

Dr Joshi appeared in a BBC programme exploring the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, The Truth About: Antibiotics, fronted by Angela Rippon, revealing how a growing number of bacterial diseases are becoming resistant to the antibiotics currently in use. By 2050, antimicrobial resistant infections could kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.  

“Antibiotic resistance is a massive problem that affects all of us, and I think it’s brilliant that the BBC and Angela Rippon are showcasing this in a prime time show. It was really good to be involved and help push the message that antibiotic resistance is a problem for everyone to tackle.”

<p>Tina Joshi and Angela Rippon</p>
<p>Tina Joshi and Angela Rippon</p>
<p>Tina Joshi and Angela Rippon</p>

Find out more about our important work on antibiotic resistance