At Excelsior Diagnostics, Rapid Molecular Testing Leads to Better Patient Care

January 8th, 2019 / Christine Valle

Next-day turnaround allows physicians to prescribe optimal treatment from the start

Excelsior Diagnostics is all about rapid results. “We are actually saving lives by having such a fast turnaround time,” says Jack Herskowitz, Vice President of Operations at the laboratory. The company chose Luminex products — both xTAG® and NxTAG® technology and the ARIES® System — to meet its ambitious goals for reporting results back to physicians.

The Houston-based company offers tests for infectious gastroenteritis and respiratory infections, and is able to deliver results within 24 hours for users around the country. For Herskowitz, the motivation comes from the rampant overuse or misuse of antibiotics. “Technology has changed dramatically over the years,” he says, “but when it comes to the accuracy of administering antibiotics, you don’t see much of a change in the methodologies used by clinical laboratories.” He says that the majority of patients are incorrectly treated with antibiotics, in large part because labs still rely on culture-based methods that can take days to generate results — leaving physicians blind if they have to choose a treatment sooner.

Next-day Results

For instance, his lab handles samples from instant strep throat tests that came back negative in a doctor’s office. Despite those negative results, Herskowitz says rapid molecular testing consistently shows that 15% of the samples are actually positive for strep. Excelsior also runs stool tests for many nursing homes, where isolation of patients suspected of having a Clostridium difficile infection is an important but expensive precaution. Stool cultures typically produce results in five to seven days, but the Excelsior team can send next-day results to the treating physician so patients start out on the most appropriate treatment instead of on an expensive, broad-spectrum antibiotic, such as vancomycin.

Though the company is young, it’s already running at a brisk clip, processing lots of samples each day and growing rapidly. “We are changing the way antibiotics are being administered in medicine today in infectious disease,” Herskowitz says. By providing results within 24 hours, he adds, “we give the physician the ability to make the most accurate treatment determination, replacing educated guess work with applied, settled science.”

Accuracy, Specificity, and Speed

Excelsior’s team uses the ARIES® C. difficile Assay, the ARIES® GBS Assay, the ARIES® Group A Strep Assay, the NxTAG® Respiratory Pathogen Panel, and the xTAG® Gastrointestinal Pathogen Panel. They operate five ARIES Systems and Herskowitz says demand is so high that he anticipates adding more in the coming months. While he looked at other molecular diagnostic platforms, “Luminex has higher accuracy and specificity and is also faster,” he notes.

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