Imaging Bacteria

This video was created by Ellie Cawthera, with contributions from Hannah Stewart and Caroline Lyth
(MSc Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Edinburgh)


The Problem:

Methods used to determine whether bacteria are present and in what number are challenging, slow and not very precise. This is especially important in the ICU, where patients may be placed on a ventilator to help them breathe. These patients develop many lung problems that mimic infection and antibiotics are often prescribed as a precautionary measure. Many bacterial infections are treated with broad spectrum antibiotics to cover a range of potential bacteria, exposing the patient to potential drug side effects. However, overuse of antibiotics pressures microbes to develop antimicrobial resistance which is one of the biggest healthcare challenges that we face in the world today.

Our Solution:

We have so far administered BAC TWO (Gram-negative imaging agent) to three ICU patients with suspected pneumonia and six patients with a chronic lung infection (bronchiectasis).

Current Progress:

This clinical study was completed in January 2016.

We have conclusively visualised gram-negative bacteria in the alveoli of the human lung. To our knowledge, this is the first in-human report of bacterial optical molecular imaging. Another bacterial imaging study detecting bacteria (not only Gram-negative) is also underway and this will involve the same type of patients and procedures. As part of this clinical study, we are currently optimising the concentration required to detect all bacteria in the distal lung.