The European Commission awarded the Horizon prize on Better Use of Antibiotics on Monday, February 6. The prize offered a 1 million Euro reward for a diagnostic tool which could help decide if a respiratory tract infection needs antibiotic therapy, or if it can be managed without antibiotics. As respiratory tract infections are still the most common diseases to be treated erratically with antibiotics, tools like these are very welcome.
The winner of the prize was Minicare HNL, a joint venture between the instrument maker Philips Electronics in the Netherlands and P&M Venge AB, a research based company in Uppsala, Sweden. Minicare HNL combined the Minicare platform developed by Philips for Point-of-Care diagnostics and a novel biomarker, Human Neutrophil Lipocalin (HNL). The system provides a rapid and easy diagnostic tool that is able to confirm if an infection is caused by bacteria. The Minicare platform has potential to be a versatile tool, it is already in use with markers of cardiac injury, and could be expanded to many other disease markers as well.
HML as marker for bacterial infection
HML (lipocalin 2, neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin, NGAL) is a protein which is a part of the innate immune system. It is expressed by white blood cells and functions by binding iron, and thus inhibiting bacterial growth. In the assay, the blood droplet is treated with formyl-methionine-leucine-phenylalanine (fMLP) to release the HNL from the blood cells, thus inreasing the sensitivity of the assay. HNL is more specific for infections than for example C-Reactive Protein, which can be elevated by other inflammatory diseases, and better reflects the course of infection as the levels both increase and decrease rapidly.
Measure of three biomarkers
The other finalists were ImmunoPoC, a Point-of-Care instrument which measures three biomarkers in a droplet of blood and PulmoCheck, a system to detect bacterial infection in an body fluid sample by a simple colour changing reaction. Worth noting with the ImmunoPoC system is that it also provides a metric for viral infections, a feature which may reduce just-in-case-prescription of antibiotics even further.
Priced to be practically useful in Low and Middle Income Countries
ReAct congratulates the winner and the two other finalists in the competition, and hopes that these systems can provide a system which is priced low enough to be practically useful in Low and Middle Income Countries, where the need of these tools is great.