Researchers are hoping to better predict resistance to new antibiotics before it occurs in patients.
A new study led by researchers at Nottingham Trent University aims to improve the development of tests for antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
It is a global issue and leads to the failure of treatments like antibiotics.
Earlier this year, a study estimated that AMR caused 1.27 million deaths in 2019.
It occurs as microbes in bacterial infections develop ways to defend themselves from antimicrobials, and this leads to resistance.
The new study, funded by the Royal Society, aims to limit this resistance by enabling the selection of antibiotics which will successfully treat an infection.
Lead researcher Dr Alasdair Hubbard, an evolutionary microbiologist in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, said: “Bacterial infections are becoming increasingly hard to treat due to resistance to at least one antibiotic.”
He added: “We need to get better at understanding and detecting antimicrobial resistance to enable clinicians to choose the right treatment options.
“This study will help us identify mutations which cause resistance to new antibiotic combinations before they arise in the clinic so that antimicrobial resistance can be detected and bacterial infections treated successfully.
“This will improve the development of diagnostic tests to predict antibiotic resistance and antibiotic selection, helping to limit the emergence of resistance.”
Current tests predict antimicrobial resistance through the detection of segments of DNA, which produce enzymes that result in antibiotic resistance.
However, mutations in the genes associated with resistance to antibiotics can result in a mismatch between predicted and actual antibiotic resistance, limiting the usefulness of these tests.
The research will involve identifying and characterising mutations which change the function of resistance genes.
Initially scientists will study resistance to the new antibiotic meropenem-vaborbactam, which has recently been introduced for the treatment of complicated urinary tract infections, of which E.coli is the primary cause.
They will produce mutations resulting in resistance to the antibiotic, which will in turn enable them to look at the effect of these mutations on growth, enzyme activity and resistance to other antibiotics.