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The Pathologist: Labs Embrace Rapid Testing to Address Antibiotic Resistance

July 5th, 2018 / Christine Valle

Faster results lead to improved patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs

The Pathologist: Labs Embrace Rapid Testing to Address Antibiotic Resistance

A new article in The Pathologist reports on “The Race Against Resistance,” detailing how rapid molecular testing can be used in efforts to rein in the spread of antibiotic resistance. Authored by Sherry Dunbar, Luminex’s Senior Director of Global Scientific Affairs, the article offers readers an update on the state of antibiotic resistance and progress made by antimicrobial stewardship programs. Rapid testing is critical to such programs because it can help “identify infected patients, detect antibiotic resistance profiles, and guide treatment selection,” Dunbar notes.

Antibiotic resistance is a major public health threat. As the article reports, some experts predict that the annual death toll from drug-resistant infections will climb to 10 million people by the year 2050 if current trends continue. And that threat is growing even more complex. “More and more, resistance is not limited to a single class of antibiotics,” Dunbar writes. “Pathogens are increasingly found to carry resistance markers for multiple treatments, making it exceedingly difficult for treating physicians to get the upper hand.”

Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs Are Vital

The introduction of antimicrobial stewardship programs has been a vital step in addressing this crisis. Armed with rapid molecular diagnostics, clinical labs supporting these programs can now identify the pathogen causing an infection and detect markers of resistance — all in less than a day. “Getting results faster not only improves patient outcomes, but also helps check the spread of antibiotic resistance,” Dunbar notes. This is a major improvement over culture-based testing, which takes days to generate similar results and means that patients spend long periods on broad-spectrum antibiotics. In studies covered in the article, rapid testing has contributed to shorter hospital stays, lower costs and readmission rates, and getting the right treatment to patients more quickly.

“Rapid molecular diagnostics represent a relatively new weapon in the stewardship arsenal, helping to avoid two of the biggest contributors to the acquisition of drug resistance: unnecessary antibiotic use and prolonged exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics,” Dunbar writes. “Increased adoption of these tests should significantly boost the effectiveness of antimicrobial stewardship programs and other infectious disease control measures, leading to a stronger defense against infection and better health for patients.”

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