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Recent Developments in Diagnostic Testing Within the Microbiology Lab

Daniel Diekema, MD, describes recent developments made in rapid and molecular diagnostic testing in the microbiology lab, and how these tests strengthen infection prevention efforts.

Daniel Diekema, MD, professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Iowa, describes recent developments made in rapid and molecular diagnostic testing in the microbiology lab, and how these tests strengthen infection prevention efforts.

Interview Transcript (modified slightly for readability):

“Increasingly we’re seeing PCR-based or molecular detection methods that can give you results very quickly. One of the best examples would be the ability to rapidly detect MRSA in someone’s nares or a resistant Gram-negative rod in someone’s stool that can now be done using PCR methods in just a matter of a couple of hours. That can help direct infection control interventions like isolation, for example.

The other thing we’re seeing is increasing adoption of technologies like mass spectrometry or MALDI-TOV for the rapid identification of bacteria that can decrease the time to when we know a hospital-acquired infection is due to a particular species of organism. So, that could increase our ability to rapidly detect outbreaks; it could also help stewardship because you know what the organism is sooner.

Finally, more and more labs are introducing what we call microarray or multiplex PCR assays; this is where we take a sample from spinal fluid or from a respiratory tract, and in one test, you can look for 20 or more different organisms. This has big implications for infection control; it allows us to detect some organisms like respiratory viruses that we didn’t before—and those patients may need isolation or other interventions—and it can also provide more rapid detection of pathogens and allow us to focus our prevention efforts.”