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Investment in new microbiology equipment could identify bacteria in minutes instead of hours

Senedd. Credit: Adobe Stock

More than £1.2m is set to be invested in six new bacterial analyser machines that can identify bacteria from infections in minutes instead of hours.

Ensuring speedy identification of the bacteria causing the infection means patients will get the right antibiotic therapy quicker, improving their treatment and recovery.

Timely and effective treatment can also prevent infections developing into sepsis.

This also contributes into the wider public health strategy to reduce antimicrobial resistance by effectively killing the bacteria and preventing the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria.

The Welsh Government funding will replace four analyser machines – which are currently based in Cardiff, Swansea and Rhyl – and further expand capacity through the purchase of two additional machines.

The Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time-Of-Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) analysers, which process an average of 150,000 samples a year for the PHW NHS Trust’s microbiology service, need replacing as they require increased level of manufacturers support and preventative maintenance.

The machines play a vital role in identifying bacterial infections and which antibiotics would be most effective in treating them. The current machines can take between 12-18 hours to produce results, whilst the new ones aim to identify them in 10 to 20 minutes.

They will also help with infection control management of antimicrobial resistant pathogens.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a current global public health emergency and a top public health priority for Welsh Government, UK Government and Public Health Wales.

The MALDI-TOF analysers have been established as the mainstay of bacterial identification over the past five years.

Dr Robin Howe, Consultant Microbiologist and National Clinical Lead for Public Health Wales Microbiology, said: “The investment into this new technology is extremely welcome, and provides us with greatly enhanced capability to quickly identify bacterial infections, enabling clinicians to provide appropriate treatment to patients in a much more timely manner.

“This new technology will also help with our strategy of reducing antimicrobial resistance, as faster identification of pathogens mean that effective infection control measures can be put in place much sooner, to prevent the emergence of resistant bacteria.”

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “This investment will radically transform the microbiology service and allow bacteria from infections to be identified in minutes instead of hours.

“This will have a significant impact on the effective management of infections and improve patient care. Improving infection management could reduce hospital admissions by early interventions in the community, reduce length of stay thanks to effective clinical expertise and speed up patient flow across hospitals in Wales.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a current global public health emergency and we are determined to invest in the necessary equipment and infrastructure to tackle it and give patients the best possible care.”