The Rapid Micro Blog

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Rapid Infection Test in Dogs Could Curb Antibiotic Resistance

Image created by Dr. Michael J. Miller

Scientists have developed a new way to rapidly diagnose bacterial infections in dogs, enabling testing and treatment with appropriate antibiotics on the same day.

The method could eliminate the delays associated with conventional diagnosis, in which a sample has to be cultured for days to identify the bacteria present before the appropriate treatment is prescribed.

It is a significant step towards the appropriate use of antibiotics by limiting the use of inappropriate or a wide spectrum of antibiotics for unidentified infections and preventing lengthy courses of treatment.

The development could also be applied across animal and human medicine, for bacterial and other types of infections, researchers say.

New approach

The team used kits optimized for common bacterial species to allow them extract all the DNA from a sample without prior knowledge of which species are present—so-called metagenomic DNA extraction.

They combined this with an existing technology that generates DNA code from samples, known as nanopore sequencing, and a data analysis tool that identifies bacteria according to their DNA fingerprint.

Fast results

This approach allows identification of bacteria in real time, enabling results in a few hours.

The genes identified in the sample also give valuable insight on how the bacteria present are likely to respond to antibiotic treatment, enabling clinicians to prescribe the drug best suited to the infection.

The team tested their system with skin and urinary bacterial infections in dogs, and were able to detect bacteria within five hours.

They were able to identify bacterial species that are difficult to identify with conventional culturing and determine with high sensitivity whether the bacteria present were likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

Wider use

The system is designed to be adaptable for use in various samples and infections across animal species.

In the future it could be useful across a range of animal and human infections, potentially aiding the diagnosis and treatment of other types of infections caused by viruses and parasites, researchers say. The study is published in Microbial Genomics.

"Our method offers a swift way to diagnose bacterial infections and prescribe appropriate antibiotics within hours of patient testing. Following our work with skin and urinary infections in dogs, we are confident that this approach has potential for use across many animal species, and in humans, and has applications in other infection types. It could play a significant role in enabling responsible use of antimicrobial treatments and limiting antimicrobial resistance," says Dr. Natalie Ring.


Natalie Ring et al, Rapid metagenomic sequencing for diagnosis and antimicrobial sensitivity prediction of canine bacterial infections. Microbial Genomics (2023). 


Antimicrobial resistance is a major threat to human and animal health. There is an urgent need to ensure that antimicrobials are used appropriately to limit the emergence and impact of resistance. In the human and veterinary healthcare setting, traditional culture and antimicrobial sensitivity testing typically requires 48–72 h to identify appropriate antibiotics for treatment. In the meantime, broad-spectrum antimicrobials are often used, which may be ineffective or impact non-target commensal bacteria. Here, we present a rapid, culture-free, diagnostics pipeline, involving metagenomic nanopore sequencing directly from clinical urine and skin samples of dogs. We have planned this pipeline to be versatile and easily implementable in a clinical setting, with the potential for future adaptation to different sample types and animals. Using our approach, we can identify the bacterial pathogen present within 5 h, in some cases detecting species which are difficult to culture. For urine samples, we can predict antibiotic sensitivity with up to 95 % accuracy. Skin swabs usually have lower bacterial abundance and higher host DNA, confounding antibiotic sensitivity prediction; an additional host depletion step will likely be required during the processing of these, and other types of samples with high levels of host cell contamination. In summary, our pipeline represents an important step towards the design of individually tailored veterinary treatment plans on the same day as presentation, facilitating the effective use of antibiotics and promoting better antimicrobial stewardship.

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