Common bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections and wound infections are all treated with antibiotics, which are currently used very unspecific and in unnecessary high dosages. This misuse results in antibiotic resistance which is an increasing problem and will be one of the biggest threats to global health. Bacteria will mutate and become immune against the currently used antibiotics. This means that in thirty years we will go back in time for 120 years to a time were no antibiotics were available yet, and people will again die from common infections. Yearly 20% of the women in the Netherlands are affected by a urinary tract infection and currently, it is treated unspecifically because of slow diagnosis of the infection. This slow diagnosis is the root of the problem and if this will not be improved, simple infections will soon cause more deaths than cancer and cardiovascular diseases combined.
The iGEM team wants to overcome the problem of antibiotic resistance by improving the diagnostics of infections to decrease and ultimately prevent antibiotics misuse. By developing a more specific and faster detection method for urinary tract infections, antibiotics can be administered faster and more specifically, reducing the development of antibiotic resistance. The point-of-care diagnostics will be developed with the use of bacteriophages. Bacteriophages are viruses that only infect bacteria. They bind very specifically to one type of bacteria, insert their DNA and in the end kill the bacteria. In the process, DNA of the phage will be released which we will detect using bioluminescence. Besides being fast and specific, our bacteriophage-based approach is also modular. Its application could range from fast specific diagnosis of infections to detection of bacteria in drinking water or in the food industry. In addition, fast detection is convenient during surgery, for example, to determine if an implant needs to be removed or not. The implementation of this fast and specific bacteria detection method will ensure that we can keep on winning our fight against infections.