We’ve had a good run for the last seven decades or so, being able to defeat almost all microbial infections with a growing variety of powerful antibiotics, but the proliferation of antibiotics has also led to underdosing and careless prescription, directly driving the evolution of antibiotic-resistant microbes. In fact, most hospitals routinely overuse antibiotics according to recent analysis by leading healthcare providers alliance, Premier (NASDAQ:PINC), in which they reviewed data from their sizeable membership and found that the inappropriate and redundant use of combinations of the most common therapies was prevalent in almost 80% of all facilities, also amounting to $13 million a year in excess spending.
Many in the medical community are becoming increasingly alarmed by the looming threat that the evolution of multidrug resistant and now even totally drug resistant microorganisms pose. The billions per year in excess healthcare costs alone resulting from the rise of drug resistant/immune microorganisms is a serious problem, but the potential impacts to clinical patient outcomes and loss of human life, could be systemically staggering. This is especially true in highly specialized and developed economies, whose very organizational strengths make them particularly vulnerable to the kind of sporadic chaos that the rise of drug resistant/immune bacteria could create.
We are facing a possible future where such microbes, which have adapted through genetic mutation to underdosed or overused antibiotics across huge numbers of subjects, may shatter the antibiotics paradigm itself, making most, if not all of the available therapies in existence today completely useless. Compounding this problem is the growing incident rate of HAIs (hospital-acquired infections), which are conservatively estimated as affecting 5% of all patients according to the CDC’s own numbers, and which are associated with over 23k deaths per year in the U.S. alone, as well as 100k plus deaths per year worldwide.
One of the most troubling bugs in the mix is MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), because it is responsible for numerous infections that are difficult to treat and because it is highly resistant to the standard beta-lactam class antibiotics, including typically prescribed penicillins (even oxacillin), as well as the cephalosporin group. MRSA is of particular concern in hospitals or extended care facilities where patients who have open wounds or invasive devices, as well as patients with compromised immune systems, are at a statistically much higher risk of infection. Estimated as being responsible for around 11k deaths and 80k invasive infections in the U.S. alone each year, costing over $2.5 billion in excess healthcare costs, MRSA has been clearly identified by the CDC (alongside other drug resistant bacteria), as being a prime target for advanced detection technologies, which may be one of the only truly effective ways to curb its spread. Moreover, the ability to accurately and quickly detect sources of contamination may eventually lead to improved use of antibiotics in general, greatly reducing their application where it is unnecessary and helping to get them applied more rapidly when they are needed, ultimately helping a great deal when it comes to stemming the tide of drug resistant bacteria, directly at the source of its adaptation.
While newer technologies in use today, like the GeneXpert® system from molecular diagnostics company Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD), have taken MRSA detection times down from a few days to only a few hours (or even as low as 66 minutes), allowing for the reduction of costly, presumptive patient ICU isolation, as well as nursing labor, such systems still require swabbing and unit culturing. A similar approach by Switzerland-based diagnostics developer Roche (OTCMKTS: RHHBY), with their cobas® MRSA/SA Test using the cobas 4800 system, while providing highly accurate and real-time polymerase chain reaction based detection, still requires swabbing the patient and then running the vial through expensive hardware to do the detection.
This unfortunate reality is where innovative detection device development company Zenosense (OTCQB: ZENO) comes into clear and sharp focus, as they are currently co-developing a revolutionary new series of devices capable of accurately discriminating the signature VOCs (volatile organic compounds) associated with MRSA/SA, as well as lung cancer, in real-time by processing the air and the patient’s exhaled breath. Working with renowned sensor developer, Sgenia Group’s dedicated subsidiary, Zenon Biosystem, Zenosense plans to market these devices directly to hospitals and other healthcare settings where they can provide the kind of early detection needed to save huge sums of money and countless patient lives.
Such electronic nose technology is somewhat new but there have been several applications of it in recent years, including for creating sniffing devices that can detect the chemical signature of explosives. And despite existing devices, like the Airsense system installed on the ISS (international space station), being bulky and prohibitively expensive, such devices have proven to be of immense value for doing real-time detection that does not require some kind of sampling and culturing or other cumbersome test protocol.
The Zenosense device’s core technology, an algal (water) based chip under license to Zenosense from Sgenia, has already been developed and proven. Pairing this platform with a single, cheap, off-the-shelf gas sensor and the company’s own sophisticated processing software, allows the Zenosense device to achieve the same analytical capability as up to 32 sensors, which would require their own supporting processors, circuit boards, and power supplies. The result is an inexpensive and lightweight detector that can be worn or placed in a fixed position in a patient’s room, providing continuous, accurate scans that will take the guess work and hassle out of MRSA detection.
A potential game changer that could help us head off the “end of antibiotics” scenario that has the healthcare community spooked, the Zenosense MRSA/SA detection platform also has the ability to actively learn target VOC signatures across the spectrum, giving it powerful abilities that could make it a virtually indispensible feature of all healthcare facilities on earth one day.
To learn more about the company, please visit www.zenosense.net
Let us hear your thoughts: Zenosense, Inc. Message Board