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With the MALDI-TOF method, the second half of the process, identifying the bacteria, now only takes 20 seconds. The new timelines mean doctors can not only treat patients faster but also prescribe the right medications instead of generic antibiotics and even save patient's lives.

September 8, 2017
Writer: Sydney Jensen

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center has unveiled a new method for identifying bacteria.

The method is called MALDI-TOF and uses lasers to identify already cultured bacteria in less than 20 seconds. Scott Bradley, Administrative Director for Lab Services at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, says the technology was not a product of the hospital or new in its methodology, but rather a new opportunity for the hospital to narrow patient care time and treatments. 

"We do see it being beneficial to our patients and speeding up the process, we'd love to be a reference labratory for hospitals throughout the area for hospitals that are still using biochemical methods to identify their bacteria," Scott Bradley, Administrative Director for Lab Services at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, told BYU-Idaho Radio. 

The process is rather straightforward, Bradley says. A patient comes to the hospital for treatment and doctors need to identify the bacteria infecting the patient. The old procedure requires the curation of the bacteria, a process that takes 12-18 hours Bradley says, and then the cultured bacteria would be sent to the lab for testing which previously required an additional 24-72 hours to identify. 

With the MALDI-TOF method, the second half of the process, identifying the bacteria, now only takes 20 seconds. The new timelines mean doctors can not only treat patients faster but also prescribe the right medications instead of generic antibiotics and even save patient's lives.

"We had a patient who was not doing well and the intensive was calling down to the laboratory seeing if we could give them any information," Bradley said. "It was really strange because this particular bug...it looked like salmonella and it was really confusing because salmonella is typically a gastrointestinal infection and this was showing up in the patient's blood stream and their body fluids and it was just really, really strange."

Bradley says that the lab was able to send the bacteria through the new system and within seconds, confirmed the infection was Salmonella and could give the right prescriptions and treatments to help the patient heal. 

"He almost immediately began to do better and improve and the doctor will tell us today that we did save his life because of that quick identification," Bradley said. 

Currently, EIRMC is the only hospital in the area with the MALDI-TOF technology, but Bradley says other medical care centers can send cultured bacteria to the lab for identification.

You can listen to the full interview below.