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Diagnosing resistance

It might be a day late and a dollar short, but the U.S. government is finally getting around to addressing what many experts think is the big unserved need in antibiotic resistance-new diagnostics. Faster, more sensitive and versatile diagnostic technologies that can keep up with the emergence of resistant strains are needed both for improving treatment and optimizing clinical trials.

"Diagnostics are the key. It is just that we are far away from that right now and need to stimulate that," said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at a hearing last month about antibiotic resistance held by the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health.

The hearing was part of the committee's 21st Century Cures initiative and revolved around strategies for combating antibiotic resistance and fostering new drug development. Although the main focus was on ways to modify clinical practice and create incentives for new therapeutics, several participants highlighted the urgent need for new diagnostics.

A day earlier, the White House announced a $20 million prize for the development of a rapid point-of-care diagnostic for resistant infections, a national strategy for solving problems of antibiotic resistance and the publication of a report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology that included the importance of diagnostics in reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Experts at the hearing agreed that existing diagnostic capabilities do not adequately address the problem of antibiotic resistance.

"Louis Pasteur and Alexander Fleming would recognize the methods we use today because they invented them, so there is a lot of room at the top for improvement," Woodcock said at the hearing. "If we could bring diagnosis of infectious diseases into the 21st century, we would

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