University Hospital will be first to use new testing system to cut time to identify causes of serious infections

University Hospital will be the first in the country to use a newly approved testing system that can cut the time to identify causes of serious infections from days to a couple of hours and also rapidly identify what specific antibiotic will work against it, officials said.

 

With company officials on hand, University unveiled the Accelerate PhenoTest BC Kit system just a week after Accelerate Diagnostics Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market it.

“This is the very first institution, not just in your geography, not in the region, not in the state but the first facility in the United States to adopt this technology,” said Ron Price, senior vice president and head of commercial operations at Accelerate.

The new system can identify 14 different common bacteria known to cause serious infections in two hours and then identify which antibiotics it is sensitive to in about eight hours versus the 48 hours it would normally take to culture bacteria and get that information, said Dr. Kailash Sharma, medical director laboratory services at University.

“It can save up to 40 hours,” he said.

Bacterial infections strike two million people a year and kill at least 23,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It comes up in potential diagnoses in a quarter to a third of the patients hospitalized at University, said Dr. Kevin Nash, medical director of the hospitalist program at University.

“Maybe even a little higher,” he said. Without specific information for two to three days to guide therapy, doctors are forced to begin broad spectrum antibiotics that can also lead to complications down the road, Nash said. For every hour antibiotics are delayed, the risk of death rises by eight percent, he said.

“You don’t have the luxury of waiting until you have more specific information,” Nash said. “You’re having to kind of blast away at them because the stakes of not intervening quickly are very, very high.”

Thus, patients often get much more antibiotics than they might actually need, he said.

“The idea that you can provide that patient-directed therapy now in a number of hours as opposed to a number of days, that’s huge because that reduces cost, reduces complications from the therapy, complications because you may not have had the right therapy,” Nash said.

Widespread broad spectrum antibiotic use can result in a number of problems, from furthering antibiotic resistance among bacteria to actually lead to greater risk of another stubborn infection by the clostridium difficile bacteria, Sharma said.

“We don’t want to use too many broad spectrum antibiotics that may or may not be effective,” he said. This system will allow University to lower the rates of those complications, Lab Director Christa Pardue said.

“We’re also going to see a reduction in acquired antibiotic resistance,” she said. “Less exposure, less resistance.”

The company said its clinical testing show it has the potential to save $4,800 per patient, and shorten the time a patient is in the Intensive Care Unit by nearly two days. And it is just better to get these infections under specific control as early as possible, Nash said.

A widespread bacterial infection “is literally akin to invaders running around in the streets of your city,” he said. “The city’s very survival is at risk. The longer the invaders are able to run around unchecked, the more time they have to wreak havoc.”

The result could be kidney failure, stroke or a heart attack.

“They can evolve very, very quickly,” Nash said. Having a much quicker diagnosis and specific treatment will be key to limiting those complications, he said.

“In terms of this being a game changer, this is huge,” Nash said.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com

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