04 March 2008

Rapid tests and detection of HAIs

From the New York Times' business section, a good discussion today of the new technologies that have made possible rapid detection and identification of patients colonized with MRSA.

The story focuses on Cepheid, a 12-year-old California biotech that may score its first-ever profits on the basis of its MRSA rapid test, which returns results in 60-90 minutes, compared to the several days required for a bacterial culture. (Other test manufacturers, with products already out or in the pipeline: Becton-Dickinson, Roche, GenProbe.) Among the early users: The company's own CEO, John L. Bishop, who picked up MRSA at his gym.

Rapid tests such as Cepheid's make "search and destroy" programs plausible: They return results so rapidly that hospitals can get started on treating or decolonizing patients before any staph that has been carried into the hospital can spread.

The piece does a nice job of exploring why hospitals would be opposed to "search and destroy." Among the reasons: Suspicion of being a new marketing opportunity for the test-producing companies; focusing on eradicating only one organism instead of instituting broad infection-control programs that will combat other HAIs as well.

No comments: