EAMC to Begin Using New MALDI-TOF Technology

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East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC) recently began using a new technology that allows the rapid identification of bacterial organisms. This new equipment, called MALDI-TOF (Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time of Flight), can process and identify over 500 types of bacterial infections in a matter of minutes.

“As an infectious disease specialist, I can tell you this is a game-changer,” says Ricardo Maldonado, M.D. of East Alabama Infectious Disease. “My job is to treat our most vulnerable and sickest patients who are mostly dealing with life-threatening infections, and time is of the essence. With traditional methods that we have used for decades, it took between three-to-five days to fully know the identification of responsible bacteria that makes our patients sick.”

Dr. Maldonado says MALDI-TOF will identify these bacteria a lot quicker. “The impact is more than significant and, in many cases, will be lifesaving. The same can be said for my job as the medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at EAMC. Our team will figure out organisms more rapidly and allow us to make faster antibiotic recommendations to our colleagues, or in other cases, avoid using unnecessary antibiotics, preventing development of resistance as well as undesirable side effects.”

Patients dealing with serious infections depend on timely and effective antibiotic therapy.

Jeff Payne, Microbiology supervisor at EAMC, states that “the MALDI-TOF will help our Microbiology Laboratory get the bacteria identification very quickly. At the earliest signs of bacterial growth, we can use this technology to identify these bacteria in a matter of minutes.”

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health challenges of our time. This has been driven by the largely unnecessary use of antibiotics.

“Identifying bacteria rapidly is so important,” says Darrell Childress, antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at EAMC. “The faster we can identify bacteria, the faster we can begin a more specific and effective treatment. At the same time, we will be able to narrow down the antibiotic needed for a patient’s specific infection.” Childress says this is key because treating with a broad-spectrum antibiotic to cover a wide range of bacterial infections that the patient may not have is what leads to bugs (illnesses) that are resistant to antibiotics. “These are just some of the many benefits of having the MALDI-TOF.”

For EAMC, being able to treat patients faster means greater outcomes for our patient population. Patients will get better faster, leave the hospital sooner and have fewer adverse effects from the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics.