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Photonics system aims to reveal antibiotic allergies

01 Mar 2016

PUV, Valencia, leads European "Cobiophad" project to develop cheap device to detect drug allergies.

The Universitat Politècnica de València (Polytechnic University of Valencia, UPV), Spain, is leading a new Horizon2020 research project to develop a low-cost biophotonic device that can detect drug allergies within 30 minutes. Going by the acronym “Cobiophad”, short for Compact Biophotonic Platform for Drug Allergy Diagnosis, the project also receives funding from the European Technology Platform Photonics 21.

The project will focus on the diagnosis of allergies to the beta-lactam antibiotic group, which includes penicillin, amoxicillin and cephalosporins and is the most prevalent drug allergy in Europe.

Project coordinator and researcher at the UPV’s Interuniversity Research Institute for Molecular Recognition and Technological Development (IDM), Ángel Maquieira explained:

“Current tests for drug allergies mainly take the form of in vivo testing and, although in vitro methods already exist, they are not especially sensitive and can lead to imprecise diagnoses. They also analyze few allergens, are slow, taking up to three hours, and expensive, costing around €30 per allergen.”

Not only does Cobiophad aim to reduce the time and cost involved in diagnosing these allergies, but crucially it will ultimately improve the prescription of antibiotics. “This will contribute to improving the health and quality of life of the millions of Europeans that suffer from allergies to beta-lactam antibiotics, as well as to the sustainability of healthy systems,” added Maquieira.

Also taking part in this project, which kicked off in February 2016, are other research groups and companies from around Europe, including: Sintef (Norway), Sony (Austria), Optoel (Romania), Biotronics and Eurexploit (both UK), Dr. Fooke Laboratorien (Germany) and the UPV spin-off Das Photonics. They will be joined by experts from Valencia’s Health Research Institute La Fe and Montpellier University Hospital (France).

Objective: optimal prescribing

The main objective of the project is, therefore, improve antibiotic prescribing, "which will help to improve the health and quality of life of millions of European citizens who suffer allergy to beta-lactam antibiotics, as well as sustainability healthcare systems,” said Maquieira.

Cobiophad is the result of the conjunction of multiple researchers and European companies in various fields, from biotechnology to chemical or optical, to electronics and telecommunications, among others.

Hypersensitivity to antibiotics, which currently affects more than 2.5 million European citizens, makes it difficult to prescribe the optimal antibiotic treatments for common infections, such as respiratory, urinary and soft tissue diseases, as well as for more serious infections.

In cases of allergy to beta-lactams, the use of alternative antibiotic therapy has been associated with worse clinical outcomes, increased frequency of adverse effects and increased pharmaceutical spending. Not surprisingly, allergic reactions to certain drugs generate additional hospitalization costs ranging between €1750 and €4500 per patient, a problem that the Cobiophad project is intended to remedy.

About the Author

Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org.

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