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Identifying Pathogens for Targeted Therapy

Kirk Hevener, PharmD, PhD, assistant professor of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Idaho State University, College of Pharmacy, explains how clinicians can identify pathogenic organisms to determine which narrow spectrum antibiotic to use for treatment.

Kirk Hevener, PharmD, PhD, assistant professor of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Idaho State University, College of Pharmacy, explains how clinicians can identify pathogenic organisms to determine which narrow spectrum antibiotic to use for treatment.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Ten, fifteen, twenty years ago, that was really difficult. It took several days of laboratory testing to be able to tell clinicians your patient has [these] bacteria, and [they’re] sensitive to these antibiotics. That’s why clinicians started using broad spectrum antibacterial agents, because they didn’t know what organism they were treating, so they had to use broad spectrum in order to cover the broadest variety of possibilities. But now in the twenty-first century we’re developing a lot of, what I call ‘molecular methods’ for identification of infectious organisms.

We don’t have to do several-day-long cultures anymore in order to determine what a patient has. We can actually identify using genetic methods, like polymerase chain reaction or other methods such as those, what the specific organism someone is infected with is, and also what antibiotic its susceptible or not susceptible to. Compared to twenty years ago, when it took several days to know what you [were] treating, we can now know in just 20 minutes to a couple [of] hours.

The need for broad spectrum antibacterials is less now than it [was] before. An MD or a physician will get information from the laboratory within the same day; they’ll know exactly what the organism they’re treating [is, and] they can pick a narrow spectrum agent to treat that immediately, without first using broad spectrum [antiboitics].”