Scientists have pioneered a method to detect antibiotic susceptibility for urinary tract infections in less than 30 minutes, potentially enabling patients to be diagnosed and prescribed effective treatments during a single clinical visit.

The new test developed at California Institute of Technology that identifies antibiotic-resistant bacteria could shorten wait times from 3 days to less than 30 minutes and could help reduce the spread of superbug bacteria, according to the study published this week in Science Translational Medicine.

“Right now, we’re overprescribing, so we’re seeing resistance much sooner than we have to for a lot of the antibiotics that we would otherwise want to preserve for more serious situations,” Xinhua quoted Nathan Schoepp, co-author of the study, as saying.

According to the team, when treating bacterial with bacterial infections, doctors tend to ignore first-line antibiotics like methicillin or amoxicillin–drugs that bacteria are more likely to be resistant and skip straight to the stronger stuff, like ciprofloxacin.

Using 54 urine samples from patients with the bacteria Escherischia coli-caused UTIs, the researchers compared the results of their test to a standard test that normally takes two days. Their new method was found to be a 95 percent match to the results of the existing test.

“Therapies are driven by guidelines developed by organisations like the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention without knowing what the patient actually has, because the tests are so slow,” says Rustem Ismagilov, Caltech’s Ethel Wilson Bowles and Robert Bowles Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and director of the Jacobs Institute for Molecular Engineering for Medicine.

“We can change the world with a rapid test like this. We can change the way antibiotics are prescribed.”

Researchers plan to begin running the test on other types of infectious bacteria to see how well it performs. They also hope to tweak the testing procedures to work with blood samples.