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Traditional laboratory tests for antibiotic-resistant bacteria can take, at minimum, 24 to 72 hours to culture but the Laboratory Services Department at F.F. Thompson Hospital recently acquired state-of-the-art technology that tests for the actual genes within the organisms involved, in a fraction of the time.

The Cepheid GeneXpert XVI System produces results for nasal MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) screenings within 60 to 70 minutes, compared to the 72 hours required before. It is also being used by Thompson to test for the intestinal bug Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, with highly accurate results within 40 minutes.

“This technology allows physicians to create a plan of treatment sooner and more accurately,” says Nina Smith, the lab’s Technical Operations Manager, noting that if a patient has something that requires isolation, quicker results mean less risk of exposure to others.

Smith says that use of the GeneXpert can expand in the future to test for other illnesses, such as VRE (Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus) and, once FDA-approved, influenza-A such as H1N1. “More and more testing will eventually go onto equipment with this type of technology,” she says.

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