March 04, 2014
A new technology will help reduce test-result wait times and improve outcomes for patients at Jefferson.
For some infections, a few hours can be the difference between life and death. In these critical moments, making sure a patient is given the right antibiotic can be lifesaving. However, doctors often have to wait days to get results that identify the infecting pathogen.
This week, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is launching a new technology for rapid identification of bacteria causing sepsis, a common type of infection. This will lead to a reduction in time to administration of target antibiotic therapy in patients, leading to shorter hospital stays.
"We are pleased to aggressively offer this new diagnostic technology to assist physicians in managing their patients more effectively," says Amity Roberts, Ph.D., Director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and lead developer of the MALDI-TOF instrument protocol.
The MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer has been adapted to rapidly identify infectious pathogens in the hospital setting. "The MALDI-TOF is an instrument that everyone in the biomedical community is talking about," says Roberts. Jefferson is the first hospital in the region to implement the MALDI-TOF technology for patient care.
Sepsis, a condition caused by a whole-body bacterial infection, is a common and often life threatening condition. "Patients can develop sepsis as a complication of invasive medical procedures, as well as through the evolution of common disorders like urinary tract infections," says Dr. Roberts.
Analysis by MALDI-TOF spectroscopy rapidly determines the identity of the pathogen causing sepsis so that the patient can be administered the correct antimicrobial therapy. If patients are given non-specific or broad coverage antibiotics then the infection may continue to spread undiminished. "Every hour of delay to administration of target antimicrobial therapy increases the mortality rate for patients with sepsis," says Dr. Roberts.
The MALDI-TOF analysis provides a fingerprint of the infectious agent that is then automatically compared to a library of well characterized organism fingerprints to provide identification. While this technology can help to reduce cost to the institution, the major benefit is the accuracy and speed by which infections are diagnosed, which leads to improved patient care and a shorter hospital stays.
The effort to bring the MALDI-TOF instrument in-house is just one example of Jefferson's initiative to improve the speed and accuracy of its diagnostic tests. "Jefferson is leveraging cutting edge technology to diagnose patient's illnesses faster than ever before," says Stephen Peiper, M.D., the Peter A. Herbut endowed professor and Chair of the Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology Department at Thomas Jefferson University. The Department also recently launched a Genomic Pathology Laboratory Program initiative at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to allow clinicians to detect the activated genes in diseases like cancer. Such genomic analysis will help find alternative novel treatments for patients who no longer benefit from the standard of care, such as chemotherapy or radiation.
"These new technologies are allowing us to vastly improve our ability to diagnose patients with the highest level of accuracy and provide treatment with the precision of molecularly targeted therapies," says Dr. Peiper.