Finnish startup races to fight 'silent pandemic' killing millions each year

Finnish startup races to fight ‘silent pandemic’ killing millions each year

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was directly responsible for over 1 million fatalities in 2019, and the death toll keeps rising. It occurs when bacteria become resilient to antibiotics, making infections more difficult to treat — or in some cases impossible. 

In Finland, scientist Windi Muziasari has made it her mission to tackle this “silent pandemic.” 

In 2018, after completing her PhD studies at the University of Helsinki, Muziasari founded Resistomap — a tool to help doctors and researchers track the global distribution of antibiotic resistance in the environment. Since then, the startup has compiled a database of over 10,000 environmental samples across 45 countries worldwide, one of the largest of its kind. 

Basically, the scientists at Resistomap collect samples from sites like water treatment plants, hospitals, and farms to test for the presence of bacteria containing antibiotic-resistant genes. Many of these facilities have a high presence of resistant bacteria but don’t test for them regularly or only test for certain types. 

For hospitals, for instance, Resistomap conducts continuous resistance monitoring and recommends preventative measures to limit the spread of these bacteria. It does this by installing an automatic wastewater sampler in the sewer system of the healthcare facility which collects samples for testing at the company’s lab in Helsinki.

Samples are then analysed using a high-throughput qPCR system (a technology used for measuring DNA) to detect and quantify antibiotic resistance genes‍. Results are then displayed on an interactive dashboard which helps authorities identify potential areas for intervention. But that’s just the beginning. 

The startup announced today it has secured €2mn in a seed funding round which it will use to develop the company into a biosecurity intelligence platform. This platform will feature the integration of early-warning systems, in-depth genetic results, advanced prediction models, and personalised recommendations for reducing the spread of AMR.  

Going forward, Resistomap plans to expand to other diseases. “Our vision goes beyond AMR to build a comprehensive biosecurity platform that addresses a diverse array of disease-causing pathogens, encompassing both those already identified and those that remain undiscovered,” said Muziasari.

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