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Anti-biotic misuse in India claims lives increasingly: Diagopreutic Founder & CEO Dr Roshan Naik

Popping anti-biotics because you have a running nose or a sore throat is common practice, as they are always given by druggists if you catch a cold, but this seemingly unharmful practice can have adverse effects on your body in the long-run. This over-consumption of anti-biotics can cause antimicrobial resistance, which can prove to be fatal.

Dr Roshan Naik with his wife & Diagopreutic Co-Founder, Lakshmi Swaroopa Naik
Dr Roshan Naik with his wife & Diagopreutic Co-Founder, Lakshmi Swaroopa Naik

Diagopreutic Pvt Ltd is a startup based in Goa, which focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of antimicrobial resistance. The startup was founded by Dr Roshan Naik, who is an accomplished scientist, with more than 10 years of academic research and development experience, across Germany, France, and Singapore, including a certificate course in bio-entrepreneurship. He obtained his PhD degree from Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany.

He has published over 10 peer-reviewed international publications and book chapters and filed two patents. His work has been funded by the Max Planck Society, and he has received travel awards from IBRO, EMBO to present his work at international conferences.

He returned to India in mid-2020 and started working on his startup after noticing a huge upward rise in antimicrobial resistance.

In order to know what exactly antimicrobial resistance is, how the same is caused and can be prevented, and how Dr Naik’s startup works towards the same, Sonakshi Datta of Incubees asked him a few questions.

What is ‘antimicrobial resistance’?

Antimicrobial agents, such as antibiotics, are designed to either stop the growth or kill the bacteria when they are multiplying. Antibiotics are not meant for treatment of viral infections. Antibiotic misuse has contributed towards antimicrobial resistance (AMR) wherein several commonly used antibiotics are no longer able to either stop or kill the bacteria leading to serious illnesses, delay in treatment, increased healthcare expenditure and prolonged hospital admissions.

What do you think led to the upward surge in antimicrobial resistance in India?

Antibiotics are relatively cheaper to buy, can be purchased from pharmacies without a valid doctor’s prescription and are overprescribed. Often, people buy antibiotics for viral infections such as flu and cold, or are used as animal growth promoters on farms, and in aquaculture, which eventually enter our body through food. As per a study published in Lancet journal, 6.8 lakh lives were lost in 2019 due to AMR, and this is predicted to further rise as several infection associated bacteria are resistant to available antibiotics. Even during COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge rise in antibiotic misuse, leading to complications of secondary bacterial infections.

How is antimicrobial resistance diagnosed?

The standard procedure for the diagnosis of antimicrobial resistance involves culture of bacteria using differential chromogenic formulation, followed by its identification and antibiotic disc diffusion assays, to determine which of the antibiotics are resistant or sensitive to the bacteria. However, this process is time and resource intensive and can take 2-3 days to complete.

Often, doctors would prescribe antibiotics based on symptoms and their experience in treating similar cases, leading to trial-and-error based prescription which also contributes to AMR.

How can antimicrobial resistance be prevented?

AMR can be prevented by reducing unnecessary prescription of antibiotics, proper use of prescribed antibiotics, preventing pharmacies from dispensing antibiotics without valid prescription, and follow good hygiene practices.

How does Diagopreutic ensure proper treatment of antimicrobial resistance?

We have developed a color based quantitative technology (ESKaPE kit) that provides information on the right antibiotic under 4-6 hours, directly from clinical specimen with 93 percent accuracy unlike 2-3 days with the current procedure. The technology is meant to be used for near-patient testing, does not require instrumentation unlike the routine process, and results can be analyzed using a custom-built smartphone app and securely communicated to patients and doctors alike.

What are some of the accolades and recognitions Diagopreutic has won?

The technology development has been possible due to the funding and support received from DST-Nidhi Prayas and FiiRE, Fatorda, Goa. We have received a gold award at the India International Innovation & Invention Expo (INEX) 2022. We also received the second prize under the diagnostic category at the International Knowledge Millennium Conference (IKMC), 2023, held in Hyderabad, Telangana.

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