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Medicine Technology

Microscopic "Tuning Forks" Help Determine Effectiveness of Antibiotics 36

sciencehabit writes "A patient admitted to a hospital with a serious bacterial infection may have only a few hours to live. Figuring out which antibiotic to administer, however, can take days. Doctors must grow the microbes in the presence of the drugs and see whether they reproduce. Rush the process, and they risk prescribing ineffective antibiotics, exposing the patient to unnecessary side effects, and spreading antibiotic resistance. Now, researchers have developed a microscopic 'tuning fork' that detects tiny vibrations in bacteria. The device might one day allow physicians to tell the difference between live and dead microbes—and enable them to recognize effective and ineffective antibiotics within minutes."
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Microscopic "Tuning Forks" Help Determine Effectiveness of Antibiotics

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  • by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @06:26PM (#44159849) Homepage Journal

    Medical error ranks third [] among causes of death in the US.

    Estimates of risk vary depending on which complications are counted, but it's always in the top 10. Any trip to the hospital results in a 1 in 300 [] chance of dying from medical mistake. For comparison, your chance of dying in an airplane accident is 1 in 10,000,000 per flight.

    A rational plan would spend time and effort where it will do the most good. Instead of inventing new cures and treatments, perhaps we should be looking into ways to make our existing process safer?

    For comparison, the risk of death by medical error is higher than the risk of death from diabetes. I'm not saying that diabetes research should be halted, but shouldn't higher risk factors be addressed as well?

  • by quantumghost ( 1052586 ) on Monday July 01, 2013 @07:02PM (#44160141) Journal

    That's nice that a new technique is developed to measure/observe bacteria, but what's with all that bullshit about rushed bacterial infection?

    PR idiots.

    As a clinical (critical care, if you care to know) physician, I too am a bit puzzled by the description.

    Patients in septic shock are very sick and the prescription of antibiotics is a delicate subject....antibiotics need to be started within a few hours of diagnosis, and getting it wrong (prescribing an antibiotic to which the bacteria is resistant) and the patient has a 50% increase in mortality. To this end we use the broadest spectrum antibiotics available, and most hospitals develop an "Antibiogram []" specific for their institution [] and their pt population. These antibiotics are so powerful, it is rare, but not unheard of, for organisms to be resistant to them.

    The process goes like this:

    Pt is admitted to an ICU

    Cultures of all likely sources (urine, lung, blood, CSF, abscess fluid) are obtained

    Antibiotics are started (sometimes before the cultures are drawn, but ideally after), as well as other therapies

    Over the next few days the antibiotics are "De-escalated" as dictated by the cultures (see below)

    Hopefully the pt recovers and their care is down-graded and ultimately discharged

    The cultures [] are sent to the lab after being draw and in a process [] that (time-wise) parallels the above:

    The sample is extracted from the specimen container and are plated [] on a growth medium or placed in a broth

    They are allowed to grow for (around) 24 hours

    The plates are examined to determine if anything actually grew (may take up to 3 days for blood)

    If something grew, two processes happen:

    The culture is sent through a variety of tests [] (gram-stain, etc) to determine the species of bacteria which will dictate the next step.

    The specimen is then re-suspended in a culture medium and plated and allowed to grow in the presence of antibiotics [] thus yielding that particular organisms antibiogram

    A you can see, there really isn't anywhere to rush the process. And I would be very interested to see how they can speed this up with their technology....the who purpose of the plating is to amplify the bacteria from the milieu of the body fluids and to find the dominant organism growing.

    In addition, some cultures are already "contaminated" with body flora (e.g. upper respiratory and stool) and the purpose of the culture is to amplify pathological bacteria from the benign-normal flora.

    Longer video that gives a better front to back description []

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson