In the livestock industry, antibiotics are often used to combat sicknesses. A major disadvantage of this is that increasingly more bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. This is an unfortunate development as these resistant bacteria eventually end up in the meat that we eat.
So what can be done about it? On the Maastricht Health Campus, the PathoNostics company focuses on molecular diagnostics. In other words, they devise methods of diagnosing various diseases quickly and efficiently with the aid of DNA testing. This company recently entered into a partnership with BeterVee, which is also based on the campus. “We met each other by accident at a meeting on the campus,” says Gijs Dingemans of PathoNostics. “BeterVee did not have an effective method of diagnosing mastitis in cows. We are now working on this using our DNA technology, and supported by a government subsidy. The advantage of the new method is that diagnosis is much faster and it is immediately clear which antibiotics the bacteria are resistant to. This makes it possible for the vet to administer the right antibiotic straight away. This drastically reduces the use of antibiotics; it’s friendlier for the animal and finally for humans too.”
PathoNostics not only focuses on diagnoses for animals but also on fungal infections in humans. A lot of viruses, bacteria and fungi can be effectively identified with DNA material. “It’s actually the same as in forensic work,” explains Dingemans. “With DNA diagnosis, you have a result within a few hours, unlike the methods that use cultures. That can take days and there often is not enough time for that. What’s more, diagnosis with DNA is more sensitive and accurate. Yes, we researchers are driven by impossibilities. If there yet a diagnostic method for a particular disease, we will devise one!”