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Taiwan Hospital Promotes Drug-Resistant Superbug Detection Method

Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Linkou, Taoyuan has developed artificial intelligence (AI)-based research technology that can rapidly detect antibiotic-resistant superbugs and better guide the correct administration of antibiotics, a hospital representative said Thursday.

Staphylococcus aureus or staph, the most dangerous of all the many common staphylococcal bacteria, is the best known drug-resistant superbug, Wang Hsin-yao (王信堯), a clinical pathologist/microbiologist in the Department of Laboratory Medicine at the hospital, said at the press event held to publicize the research.

Noting that staph claims millions of lives every year, Wang said that the overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to the growing antibiotic resistance of staph and even the appearance of heterogeneous vancomycin-intermediate Staphylococcus aureus (hVISA), an emerging superbug with implicit drug resistance to vancomycin.

The antibiotic vancomycin is the last line of defense against the community-associated methicillin-resistant S. aureus, according to Wang.

To find a method to identify superbugs, the hospital, in conjunction with Chang Gung University and National Central University, developed the AI technology after two years of research. Integrated with a mass spectrometer it achieves 80 percent medication accuracy, Wang said.

The mass spectrometer is one of the most popular mass spectrometry instruments used in biology, due to its rapid and precise identification of the genus and species of an extensive range of bacteria.

The superbug detection model developed by the hospital can provide rapid and accurate reports regarding hVISA/VISA and thereby guide the correct administration of antibiotics in treatment of S. aureus infection, according to Wang.

The research results won a gold medal at the 2017 Taipei International Invention Show & Technomart and were published in the October 2018 issue of Frontiers in Microbiology, a leading international journal in its field, publishing rigorously peer-reviewed research in the field of microbiology.

The technology will be used to detect other superbugs, Wang said, adding that the hospital is currently experimenting with the method to expand its application.

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