Artificial intelligence is being used to help diagnose antibiotic resistance. Responsible for 700,000 deaths in 2020, drug-resistant disease is a priority health issue for the World Health Organisation. In light of this, researchers and engineers in France have developed Antibiogo, an application that helps diagnose antibiotic resistance. It’s expected to start rolling out in 2021.

“If we don’t act today, we’ll have 10 million deaths per year by 2050,” explains Nada Malou, a microbiologist working with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers antimicrobial resistance ― which encompasses antibacterial resistance ― to be one of the major health challenges of the 21st century. It could even become the leading cause of death worldwide, ahead of cancer.

Antibacterial resistance describes the resistance of bacteria to known antibiotics. In industrialised countries, the identification of antibiotic resistance is facilitated by costly equipment that isn’t as readily available in developing countries. That’s where the Antibiogo application comes in. Developed at the request of MSF by researchers and engineers from France’s Université d’Évry, the French national center for scientific research (CNRS) and the bacteriology department of Henri Mondor Hospital (APHP), the tool is expected to start rolling out in 2021.

AI helping to diagnose antibiotic resistance

Inspired by Nada Malou’s on-the-ground experience, the application promises to be easy to use and will be able to function without an internet connection. This was a specific request from MSF, so that health professionals can remain operational in areas with little or no coverage, particularly in Africa and Asia, which would be particularly exposed to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Based on a photo of the diagnostic test, “the application applies expert rules, and it will give a final result that can be directly used by the clinician,” explains Nada Malou.

Currently being tested in three different countries, the app will eventually be made available free of charge for health workers worldwide. ― ETX Studio