Skip main navigation

Lack of diagnostic tests

Learn more about rapid diagnostic tests use in medicine
Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria viewed by transmission electron microscopy
© Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences
Antibiotics aren’t effective against viral infections. Similarly, an antibiotic won’t be effective against a bacterium that is already resistant to it.
Rapid diagnostic tests that tell us this basic information are few and far between, so healthcare practitioners often have to treat empirically until the results from slower diagnostic tests are available. This is essentially a “best guess”, based on the presentation of symptoms and information on the known infectious diseases common to the area at the time. The treatment is often correct, but not always, and this can lead to the inappropriate use of antibiotics. This results in the patient being sicker for longer, and greater opportunity for bacteria to evolve resistance.
Making a test which is rapid, cheap and can accurately diagnose many different types of bacteria and resistance types is challenging, which is why there are so few of them. Below are the questions an ideal test would answer (adapted from amr-review.org).
Criteria for a good diagnostic test flow chart Criteria for a good diagnostic test (Click image to expand) © Josie Bryant 2017
Whole genome sequencing has the ability to provide answers to all the above questions, however there are practical and cost barriers that prevent it from being used routinely.
© Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences
This article is from the free online

Bacterial Genomes: Disease Outbreaks and Antimicrobial Resistance

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education