Robotics breakthrough offers pandemic hope

MURDOCH UNIVERSITY’S Antimicrobial and Infectious Diseases Laboratory has made a breakthrough in monitoring bacteria using robotics that promises to slash medical costs and hospitals stays.

Sam Abraham from the AMRID-Abraham laboratory at the uni said using robotics could speed up testing for bacterial infections by 700 per cent. 

“Looking for emerging resistance, currently humans are doing all the work… there’s a high cost associated with this, testing is expensive and slow… humans can only work for so long.” Dr Abraham said.

“A person can do 100 tests a week a robot 1000 per day or more… we are making better tools.

“Bacteria that causes infection can build a resistance to the drugs; if an infection can’t be cured at the basic level they have to go to hospital.” 

Dr Abraham said the cumulative global cost of bacterial resistance is estimated to rise to US$100 trillion by 2050. He said this was due to “lengthy hospital stays”.

Robotics could also be used to reduce the cost monitoring bacteria in livestock.

Dr Abraham gave the example of the pork industry in Scandinavian Denmark where out of 28 million pigs in only 200 are tested for infections per year”. He says that’s nowhere near adequate to tackle bacterial infections adequately.

Dr Abraham says the ability to conduct real time monitoring through robotics could also have great benefits during a pandemic. “COVID testing; hard to do thousands, we can do it cost effectively and fast so it can be used globally.”

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is funding this research as well others in the field of AMR a part of its $157 million “Rural R&D for Profit Programme”. The department was contacted for comment.

RICHARD VAN UFFELEN

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