Rapid infection test in dogs could curb antibiotic resistance

Scientists have developed a new way to rapidly diagnose bacterial infections in dogs, enabling testing and treatment with appropriate antibiotics on the same day.

Vet holding dog on table in veterinary surgery

The method could eliminate the delays associated with conventional diagnosis, in which a sample has to be cultured for days to identify the bacteria present before the appropriate treatment is prescribed.

It is a significant step towards the appropriate use of antibiotics by limiting the use of inappropriate or a wide spectrum of antibiotics for unidentified infections and preventing lengthy courses of treatment. 

The development could also be applied across animal and human medicine, for bacterial and other types of infections, researchers say.

New approach

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh developed a new approach for patient sampling based on common bacterial infections in dogs. 

The team used kits optimised for common bacterial species to allow them extract all the DNA from a sample without prior knowledge of which species are present - so-called metagenomic DNA extraction. 

They combined this with an existing technology that generates DNA code from samples, known as nanopore sequencing, and a data analysis tool that identifies bacteria according to their DNA fingerprint.

Fast results

This approach allows identification of bacteria in real time, enabling results in a few hours. 

The genes identified in the sample also give valuable insight on how the bacteria present are likely to respond to antibiotic treatment, enabling clinicians to prescribe the drug best suited to the infection.

The team tested their system with skin and urinary bacterial infections in dogs, and were able to detect bacteria within 5 hours.

They were able to identify bacterial species that are difficult to identify with conventional culturing and determine with high sensitivity whether the bacteria present were likely to be resistant to antibiotics.

Wider use

The system is designed to be adaptable for use in various samples and infections across animal species.

In the future it could be useful across a range of animal and human infections, potentially aiding the diagnosis and treatment of other types of infections caused by viruses and parasites, researchers say.

The study is published in Microbial Genomics. It was supported by the Dogs Trust.

The project was also supported by the University of Edinburgh's Data-Driven Innovation programme – part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and funded by the UK and Scottish Governments.


Our method offers a swift way to diagnose bacterial infections and prescribe appropriate antibiotics within hours of patient testing. Following our work with skin and urinary infections in dogs, we are confident that this approach has potential for use across many animal species, and in humans, and has applications in other infection types. It could play a significant role in enabling responsible use of antimicrobial treatments and limiting antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Natalie RingSenior Clinical Researcher , The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Roslin Institute


Dogs Trust's Canine Welfare Grant programme provides funding for research projects with clear pathways to positive welfare outcomes. We were delighted to provide funding for this study by the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies which has developed a new technology for the rapid diagnosis of bacterial infections. The technology will significantly reduce the time taken to receive testing results, from several days to a matter of hours. This will allow for much quicker treatment of the canine patient and consequently a potential reduction in recovery time.

Paula BoydenVeterinary Director, Dogs Trust

Related Links

Read the study in Microbial Genomics

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

The Roslin Institute


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