The European Commission has awarded €1m to breakthrough test which distinguishes between viral or bacterial infections.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, handed over a €1m Horizon Prize for Better Use of Antibiotics, and Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, delivered the EU Health Award for NGOs fighting Antimicrobial Resistance, at an award ceremony hosted by the University of Leuven in Belgium.

The test can diagnose in less than 10 minutes a bacterial infection and identify if the patient can be treated without antibiotics.

Minicare HNL is a joint research comprising P&M Venge AB from Sweden and PHILIPS Electronics from the Netherlands, the test could be available for patients, as early as 2018.

The award, Horizon Prize, is part of European Commission’s efforts in encouraging the better use of antibiotics and to counter the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.

For over 70 years, antimicrobial drugs have saved numerous lives from infectious diseases. But, due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics, it has been noted that micro-organisms have become resistant to them.

It is also estimated that every year, antimicrobial resistance is not only growing but leading to some 25,000 deaths, while increasing healthcare expenses to €1.5bn in Europe alone.

Infections in the upper respiratory tract such as common cold, bronchitis and infections of the sinuses, the middle ear and the throat are the reasons for prescription antibiotics. And in many cases, the infections are caused by viruses, where antibiotics are neither useful nor necessary.

One of the main criteria for the prize was that it needed to be cheap, easy-to-use for healthcare providers. The test should prevent patients from taking antibiotics needlessly, which will prevent the overuse of antibiotics and can control the resistance that bacteria develop towards those antibiotics.

European Commission Research, Science and Innovation Commissioner Carlos Moedas said: "Overuse and misuse of antibiotics is a major challenge to public health.

“We are helping to bring this device to patients as quickly as possible, so that antibiotics are only used for bacterial infections and not for viral infections where they are ineffective or unnecessary. This helps to tackle the dangerous rise in antimicrobial resistance."

European Commission Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: "We need to put initiatives which raise awareness of the growing threat of AMR in the spotlight.

“Averting this looming threat before it turns into a public health nightmare is my most pressing priority as Health Commissioner, and as a former doctor. I count on the continued help and commitment of organisations like BEUC."