Nysha Recent News

Hospital News

Biotech Firm Building National Bacteria Database for Customized Infection Battles

Sometime in the hopefully near future, a doctor at a hospital anywhere in the U.S. treating a patient for the common E. coli infection will simply find the infection’s specific genetic “fingerprint” in a national database—and its best-matching antibiotic.

That’s the vision of ID Genomics, a Seattle-based biotechnology firm that recently received a $3 million federal grant to further its potentially life-saving work.

Bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics due to their overuse is a chronic public-health crisis costing tens of thousands of lives each year.  The company is hoping to significantly reduce that by giving doctors rapid access to information on which antibiotics work best.

The firm is using the grant to work on building up a national bacteria database.  The database will function like an FBI fingerprint library and will eventually contain the precise DNA of thousands of individual strains of bacteria.

To fill its database and fine-tune it for eventual mainstream medical use, the company is working with eight major healthcare providers across the U.S., including New York’s very own NYU Langone Medical Center.

So far, ID Genomics has collected samples of over 8,000 bacterial strains from those eight partners.  Each is analyzed for its genetic “fingerprint” then recorded in the database.

Besides its “fingerprint library,” ID Genomics also boasts testing technology that can identify a sample’s precise bacterial strain in 30 minutes. 

By contrast, it currently takes about three days for a lab to identify the exact bacteria causing a patient’s urinary tract infection (UTI), one of the most common hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) in U.S. hospitals. 

In turn, some 80 percent of UTIs are caused by E. coli—but many E. coli strains have developed resistance to various antibiotics.  For example, 30 percent of E. coli strains can resist the common antibiotic Cipro.

Once active, the system will help a doctor avoid educated guesses and select a more precisely targeted antibiotic to treat a patient’s hospital-acquired infection—as well as save a lot of time waiting for lab results, and even lives.