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World Health Matters: New superbug test could limit outbreaks

Written by | 21 Oct 2015 | All Medical News

by Gary Finnegan: Sweden: Rapid identification of superbugs can help to speed up patient recovery, contain outbreaks, and save healthcare resources, according to Swedish researchers. 

A new test developed by the Public Health Agency of Sweden will allow laboratories to quickly establish the presence of Clostridium difficile, an intestinal bacterium responsible for thousands of hospital-acquired infections every year.

The Clostridium difficile bacteria exist in the intestines of 2-5 per cent of the healthy population. In certain circumstances the bacteria can induce serious diarrhoea in persons treated with antibiotics.

The new test identifies specific proteins on the surface of the bacteria, using a laser pulse (MALDI-TOF). Details of the method, alongside an evaluation of it, have been published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Dr Thomas Akerlund, microbiologist at the Public Health Agency of Sweden said the test informs rapid decision-making. “Within 30 minutes you can tell whether you have strains of the same clonal type, and therefore a probable transmission between patients, or whether a patient has symptoms from his or her own bacteria,” he says.

This enables a hospital-wide response to ensure outbreaks are contained, says Dr Karin Tegmark Wisell, physician and head of the microbiological department at the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

“The most important measures to stop an outbreak are strict adherence to basic hygiene routines. Affected patients should be given care in single rooms only. Proper cleaning of the areas near each patient is also crucial since the bacterial spores are resistant and sometimes difficult to get rid of,” says Dr Tegmark Wisell.


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