Are the robots taking over? The role of machine learning and AI in tackling infectious diseases

I attended a brilliant seminar at Imperial College last week on the role of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in infectious management, and to a lesser extent, infection prevention and control. There’s so much potential for this exciting technology to revolutionise the way we identify, treat, and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. But, there’s also some risks – some are already asking whether the robots are taking over, and whether that is an entirely good thing!

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Studying bacteriophages: catch-22

As posted previously, bacteriophage therapy is making a remarkable come-back, if measured in media attention. It is portrayed as safe and effective in treating infections where antibiotics fail. Yet, well-designed controlled studies either lack or failed to demonstrate benefits. All we have are case reports, with – with no exception – spectacular results. But that doesn’t make bacteriophages part of our daily options for treatment. And thus, desperate patients pay thousands of euros for bacteriophages in Georgia, Poland and Belgium for self-treatment, while – at the same time – all of us seem to agree that efficacy and safety should be determined. Continue reading

The war against CPE

An interesting publication on the control of CPE last week. Not in Nature, Science of Journal of Hospital Infection, but in the “Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden”. The paper, “Besluit van 26 april 2019, houdende aanpassing van het Besluit publieke gezondheid vanwege een meldingsplicht voor Carbapenemaseproducerende Enterobacteriaceae”, with King Willem-Alexander as first author, implies that on April 26th it was decided that from July 1st 2019 on, by law, all CPE detected in the Netherlands must be notified, see. A next step in our war against CPE.

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The challenges of detecting colistin resistance in CPE

Colistin resistance in CPE is bad news. Colistin is an older antibiotic that has been effectively brought out of retirement to tackle CPE infections. We have first-hand experience of witnessing the emergence and spread of colistin resistance in CPE – and it’s not a pretty sight. Colistin susceptibility testing is very tricky from a diagnostic laboratory viewpoint – and so I was interested in this recently published paper from colleagues at Imperial evaluating a rapid MALDI-TOF based approach to detecting colistin resistance, which looks very promising indeed.

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The winner takes it all  for S. aureus

As usual, some of the most interesting presentations at ECCMID were in the late-breakers “clinical trials” session. Four of 5 presentations were on treatment or prevention of S. aureus infection, the other one on oral treatment in patients with refractory fungal disease. With all respect to fungi, the meat was in the aureus, with nothing less than a Shakespearian tragedy. Continue reading

From crowded house to ESBL-free house

A few weeks ago, Jon Otter blogged about a novel risk factor for ESBL Enterobacterales (ESBL-E) carriage, a “crowded house”, based on his work recently published in CMI: among 1,633 subjects in the catchment area of South-East London a crowded house, was associated with ESBL-E carriage, with an odds ratio of 1.5 (95% CI 1.1-2.2). Jon hinted towards future community-based interventions to reduce ESBL-E carriage and his blog naturally reached our research meeting. Continue reading

Preventing infection to tackle AMR

We’ve been blogging for a while about the need to prevent infection to tackle AMR – and am really pleased to see that this idea is central to various AMR long-term strategies (e.g. the 5 and 20 year UK AMR strategies). So I endorse wholeheartedly this new poster from IPS promoting messages aimed at healthcare professionals around preventing infection to reduce AMR.