Life Wellbeing Australian fights superbugs with laser

Australian fights superbugs with laser

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An Australian scientist has found a way to use a laser-gun device in the war against superbugs.

It blasts apart specimens from patients, quickly determining if they have a drug-resistant infection.

When a bug is identified, lab workers promptly alert doctors and nurses, who start the correct treatment and put the patient into isolation.

The test, which uses a device available in most pathology laboratories, gives results in one day rather than four or five. It also comes at a cost of less than a dollar, says Dr Paul Griffin, the microbiologist who came up with the concept.

Dr Griffin, has set up the device, the MALDI-TOF machine, to detect the antibiotic-resistant VRE bacteria, which is common in Australian hospitals.

Antibiotic resistance is becoming a huge problem around the world, says Dr Griffin, who is presenting his concept at a Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) conference in Melbourne on Friday.

Although Australia has good measures in place to control them, the number of cases of superbugs is rising.

The test is mostly requested for seriously ill people in hospital, but Dr Griffin says GPs and patients should also be aware of it.

In theory the concept could be used anywhere in the world.

However, problematic bug strains differ from country to country and it is labour-intensive to set up, says Dr Griffin, who has published a study of his concept in the international Journal of Microbiology.

“It has worked well for more than 12 months now,” he says.

* Clifford Fram travelled to the conference courtesy of the RCPA