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New American Chemical Society Podcast: Fast Test To Diagnose MRSA Infections

May 24, 2011

The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning podcast series, “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions,” focuses on new blood test that can quickly tell whether patients are infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that’s become a global threat, significantly improving treatment.

This “superbug” is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or simply MRSA. The podcast explains how MRSA started off as a threat mainly in hospitals and nursing homes among patients with open wounds, urinary catheters and weakened immune systems. Older people and children were frequent victims. But these infections, which shrug off many of the most powerful traditional antibiotics, are now occurring in locker rooms, gyms and other settings in the general community.

And these superbugs are now attacking healthy people. MSRA strikes at least 280,000 people in the United States alone every year. Almost 20,000 of those patients die. The cost of treating a single case often exceeds $20,000.

Diagnosing MSRA infections quickly is important, so that treatment can begin immediately with the right antibiotic, explains Kent Voorhees, Ph.D., who is featured in the new episode. Voorhees and former Ph.D. student Angelo Madonna developed the technology for a fast new blood MSRA blood test, just approved for general medical use by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Marketed by MicroPhage, Inc., the KeyPath̢Ң MRSA/MSSA Blood Culture Test uses paper strips to diagnose these infections so that treatment can begin within hours, rather than days. Voorhees is with the Department of Chemistry & Geochemistry, Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.

“A correct diagnosis is critical so that physicians can start the right treatment as soon as possible and so they can take proper precautions to prevent the spread of an infection to other patients and to healthcare workers,” says Voorhees. “We developed a test that can tell whether a patient has MRSA or an illness that could be more responsive to conventional treatments. The new test takes only five hours, whereas current methods can take up to three days. Every day and every hour matters when you deal with MRSA infections.”

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