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PCR Panels for Acute GI Infections Can Lower Costs, Hospitalization and Antibiotic Use

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 16 Mar 2023

Acute gastroenteritis impacts adults across all age groups and incurs enormous healthcare expenses. Now, a new study comprising 40,000 hospital visits across various geographic locations has revealed that a single stool sample analysis using multiple polymerase chain reaction (PCR) panels is capable of identifying more pathogens, especially diarrhea-causing E. coli and enteric viruses, faster than a traditional diagnostic workup.

Research conducted by the University of Washington School of Medicine (Seattle, WA, USA) found that the application of multiplex PCR resulted in a higher number of patients being discharged, reducing hospitalization rates during the following month. The cost of care for these patients was similar to those undergoing traditional stool work-up along with follow-up visits. Typically, conventional workups involve testing a stool culture for a single suspect species of pathogen, using a single pathogen PCR test or identifying a pathogen with the help of microscopy, immunology or an ova and parasites test. Additionally, the researchers found that using multiplex PCR (consisting of 12 or more panels) led to a decrease in the administration of antibiotics to hospitalized patients.


Image: Sampling a single stool using multiple PCR panels can identify more pathogens rapidly (Photo courtesy of Pexels)
Image: Sampling a single stool using multiple PCR panels can identify more pathogens rapidly (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

“Earlier studies showed that large multiplex PCR panels improve the speed and accuracy of diagnostic testing in patients with acute gastroenteritis, but their impact on costs and clinical outcomes had been uncertain,” said Ferric C. Fang, M.D., Professor of Laboratory Medicine, Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle. “Our study shows that the benefits of multiplex panels can be achieved without increasing overall healthcare costs, and also facilitates more appropriate use of antibiotics.”

“This study illustrates the power of big data to analyze the healthcare impacts of diagnostic testing and help laboratories select testing approaches that improve meaningful clinical outcomes,” Fang said.

Related Links:
University of Washington School of Medicine 


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