NEW YORK/PARIS, NOVEMBER 21, 2022—After being certified for use in Europe earlier this year, a new mobile application called Antibiogo that was developed and tested by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to help facilitate the diagnosis of antibiotic resistance is now being implemented and used in several MSF laboratories, including in Jordan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This application provides a new innovative diagnostic option to help tackle a global health emergency, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The free, downloadable Antibiogo application enables non-expert laboratory technicians to measure and interpret antimicrobial susceptibility tests (ASTs), which are the tests used to determine if bacteria will respond to particular antibiotics. ASTs are essential as they help doctors prescribe the most effective antibiotics. They are usually interpreted by highly trained microbiologists. However, in LMICs that do not have the equipment necessary to carry out ASTs or enough clinical microbiologists to interpret them, the identification of antibiotic resistance is much more complicated or even impossible, creating more opportunities for individual and community resistance to form.
“With Antibiogo, any microbiology laboratory technician—anywhere in the world—will be able to read and interpret an AST directly on any phone and know the resistance profile of the bacteria responsible for patient infection,” said Dr. Nada Malou, head of the Antibiogo program.
Antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, is recognized by the World Health Organization as a major public health threat and caused 1.27 million deaths in 2019. It could become the leading cause of mortality with 10 million deaths per year globally from 2050 onwards if nothing is done to curb resistance. Health authorities estimate that more than half of all antibiotics are used inappropriately, mainly in many LMICs like those in which MSF operates, further fueling resistance.
The Antibiogo mobile application was specifically developed by the MSF Foundation—an MSF entity that initiates, funds, and manages technology and innovation projects to improve care for patients—for and with LMICs. Its creation was supported by 15 Google.org Fellows. The application uses image processing, artificial intelligence technology, and an existing expert system that includes thousands of interpretation rules from European or American societies for microbiology used to read and interpret ASTs.
MSF plans to deploy the application in Mali, the Central African Republic, and Yemen by December and continue to expand its use in MSF projects. With time, the application could be a critical tool used by all health care professionals in LMICs.