A crowd of BashTheBug volunteers reproducibly and accurately measure the minimum inhibitory concentrations of 13 antitubercular drugs from photographs of 96-well broth microdilution plates
Fowler PW., Wright C., Spiers H., Zhu T., Baeten EML., Hoosdally SW., Gibertoni Cruz AL., Roohi A., Kouchaki S., Walker TM., Peto TEA., Miller G., Lintott C., Clifton D., Crook DW., Walker AS.
Tuberculosis is a respiratory disease that is treatable with antibiotics. An increasing prevalence of resistance means that to ensure a good treatment outcome it is desirable to test the susceptibility of each infection to different antibiotics. Conventionally, this is done by culturing a clinical sample and then exposing aliquots to a panel of antibiotics, each being present at a pre-determined concentration, thereby determining if the sample isresistant or susceptible to each sample. The minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of a drug is the lowestconcentration that inhibits growth and is a more useful quantity but requires each sample to be tested at a range ofconcentrations for each drug. Using 96-well broth micro dilution plates with each well containing a lyophilised pre-determined amount of an antibiotic is a convenient and cost-effective way to measure the MICs of several drugs at once for a clinical sample. Although accurate, this is still an expensive and slow process that requires highly-skilled and experienced laboratory scientists. Here we show that, through the BashTheBug project hosted on the Zooniverse citizen science platform, a crowd of volunteers can reproducibly and accurately determine the MICs for 13 drugs and that simply taking the median or mode of 11–17 independent classifications is sufficient. There is therefore a potential role for crowds to support (but not supplant) the role of experts in antibiotic susceptibility testing.