Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Amping antimicrobial discovery with automation

17.03.2016

Automated techniques commonly used to screen new drugs for mammalian cell toxicity could also dramatically speed up the challenging task of antimicrobial discovery

The antimicrobial arsenal that we count on to save millions of lives each year is alarmingly thin--and these microbes are rapidly evolving resistance to our weapons. But help may be on the way: In a study posted in the AMB Express, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show that automated techniques commonly used to screen new drugs for mammalian cell toxicity could also dramatically speed up the challenging task of antimicrobial discovery.


A robotic device designed for high-throughput screening of drug toxicity also could also accelerate antimicrobial discovery, NIST researchers report.

Credit: Stoughton/NIST

In the age-old struggle between humans and microbes, bacteria seem to be regaining the offensive. Only around a dozen classes of chemicals protect us from the myriad pathogens that populate our environment. Numerous agencies, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have recently warned that evolved resistance could soon render common antibiotics useless, and that few replacement drugs are in the pipeline.

The shortage of new antimicrobials is not a result of scientists lacking candidate chemicals. The fungal and plant worlds abound with potential antimicrobials, and chemists concoct new synthetic molecules all the time. However, a major bottleneck occurs at the lab bench. Any candidate compound must be tested at multiple concentrations against multiple strains of bacteria in different forms. This remains a cumbersome process, with numerous time- and labor-intensive steps that lab workers must currently carry out by hand.

But NIST researcher Samuel Forry and colleagues are convinced that the process could be vastly sped up using automation. To do so, Forry and his team looked to one of the pharmaceutical industry's most powerful tools: high-throughput screening. For several decades, companies have routinely used automated systems to test potential drugs' effects on mammalian cells in culture. In these studies, robots prepare samples of cells in arrays of small plastic wells, inject measured amounts of drugs and test whether cells live or die. The method can quickly assess multiple chemicals at different concentrations, all in parallel and with minimal human intervention.

High-throughput screening has seen limited use for antimicrobial discovery, Forry says, because less research and development money is available and because of the large variation among microbial populations and growth conditions. Hoping to stimulate the field, Forry and his team adapted a high-throughput screening robot for antimicrobial testing. The researchers tested a set of antimicrobial compounds known as pyridinium salts against the common bacterium Streptococcus mutans, which causes tooth decay.

Part of the challenge in identifying useful antimicrobial compounds is that chemicals that kill free-swimming cells are often less effective against the same bacteria growing in biofilms like the plaque that can form on teeth. So Forry's team used automation to culture both free-swimming cells and biofilms, as well as an intermediate state, side-by-side in 96-well plates. The researchers measured antimicrobial activity in three different ways by identifying the concentrations that reduced bacterial activity by half, that prevented any detectable activity, and that entirely killed the bacteria. They determined the drugs' effects with high throughput by measuring light passing through the wells or using chemicals that change color to indicate metabolic activity.

The team found that the automated system delivered results indistinguishable from those obtained by doing the experiments by hand. More importantly, the robot took only a third as much time as humans do, freed up laboratory personnel for other tasks, and carried out the procedures without errors. "That's a huge improvement from the point of view of laboratory workflow and a great boon for people trying to identify and characterize antimicrobials," Forry says.

The trials weren't fully automated--for instance, the researchers moved samples from the incubator to the screening robot by hand--but Forry says his team has demonstrated the concept, and existing technology can fill in the remaining steps. He expects other research labs will adopt the technology first, followed by pharmaceutical companies. "Once a number of people start to use this and find that it works for them as well as it has worked for us, I could easily see companies and contract labs doing it."

###

Paper: S.P. Forry, M.C. Madonna, D. López-Pérez, N.J. Lin and M.D. Pasco, "Automation of Antimicrobial Activity Screening," AMB Express 2016, 6:20. DOI: 10.1186/s13568-016-0191-2

Media Contact

Mark Bello
mark.bello@nist.gov
301-975-3776

 @usnistgov

http://www.nist.gov 

Mark Bello | EurekAlert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>