UC Santa Barbara Scientists Improve Antibiotic Testing To Help Patients

Jun 21, 2017

UC Santa Barbara scientists have corrected a flaw in antibiotic testing that could now help patients recover from infections.

The standard antibiotic test has been used worldwide since 1961. But UC Santa Barbara biologist Michael Mahan says it may not be working as well as it should be.

“People are not petri plates. And because the test is on a petri plate, it does not accurately reflect what may happen in the body,” he said.

So Mahan and his research team developed a new and more accurate test using sodium bicarbonate or baking soda, which is abundant in the body. He found that some antibiotics that were rejected by the standard test actually treated infections caused by diverse bacteria effectively.

“It’s going to be immensely helpful. And I think it’s going to have an immediate impact on how antibiotics are developed, tested and prescribed,” Mahan said.

He says pharmaceutical companies could benefit from using the revised test to rescreen their collections of drugs that have failed the standard test.