New Developments in Clinical Bacteriology Laboratories

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There are a number of changes underway in modern clinical bacteriology laboratories. Panel-based molecular diagnostics are now available for numerous applications, including, but not limited to, detection of bacteria and select antibacterial resistance markers in positive blood culture bottles, detection of acute gastroenteritis pathogens in stool, and detection of selected causes of acute meningitis and encephalitis in the cerebrospinal fluid. Today, rapid point-of-care nucleic acid amplification tests are bringing the accuracy of sophisticated molecular diagnostics closer to patients. A proteomic technology, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry, is enabling rapid, accurate, and cost-effective identification of bacteria, as well as fungi, recovered in cultures. Laboratory automation, common in chemistry laboratories, is now available for clinical bacteriology laboratories. Finally, there are several technologies under development, such as rapid phenotypic antimicrobial susceptibility testing, whole-genome sequencing, and metagenomic analysis for the detection of bacteria in clinical specimens. It is helpful for clinicians to be aware of the pace of new development in their bacteriology laboratory to enable appropriate test ordering, to enable test interpretation, and to work with their laboratories and antimicrobial stewardship programs to ensure that new technology is implemented to optimally improve patient care.

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