The time delay in starting appropriate antibiotic treatment and patient care is a matter of life or death for serious infections such as sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. This has been complicated by the fact that the number of patients with multi-drug resistant bacterial infections, for whom there are only very limited therapeutic options, is constantly rising worldwide.
The microbiology laboratory therefore plays a crucial role in identifying the infectious agent, as well as any potential resistance to antibiotics, in order to help clinicians prescribe the most appropriate treatment with the shortest time delay.
These diagnostic tools help to:
- identify patients who have a bacterial infection which would require antibiotic treatment,
- identify the organism causing the infection in order to determine the appropriate patient management,
- determine whether the pathogen is resistant to one or more antibiotics as a critical step to help the clinician prescribe the most appropriate antibiotics as early as possible.
Once resistant bacterial strains have emerged, diagnostics also play a key role in limiting their spread. They enable screening for the presence or absence of a resistant pathogen, so that patient isolation or other infection control measures can be taken to avoid or limit their spread.