New lab test helps save infant’s life
June 8, 2014
Four weeks ago, John Spurlock came home after his overnight shift as a clinical lab specialist at Valley View Hospital to find his two-month-old running a dangerously high fever. After consulting with their pediatrician, Spurlock's wife brought the child to the Valley View Emergency Room. The hospital ran a range of tests, but couldn't pinpoint what was wrong.
Spurlock consulted with his colleagues at the lab, and together with his pediatrician, decided to run a stool sample from the child using a brand new polymerase chain reaction system — or PCR — called FilmArray, recently acquired by Valley View.
While the FDA-cleared Blood Culture Identification (BCID) Panel and Respiratory Panel (RP) are lab-ready today, Gastrointestinal (GI), Meningitis/Encephalitis, and Lower Respiratory Panels were still in development in early May. The doctors made the call to test the baby's stool sample using this technology.
Instead of taking two days to run the sample, the results were back in one hour, and it showed that baby Jacoby had salmonella poisoning. How he was exposed, Spurlock and his wife still don't know, but doctors were able to immediately treat the child with appropriate antibiotics. After three days, Jacoby was sent home, a healthy baby boy again.
Spurlock believes the early detection of salmonella on the FilmArray PCR device at Valley View saved his infant son's life.
"It's just amazing what that test did," he says. "The technology that we have at Valley View is the best thing since sliced bread in our field. We saved our son's life because we were able to diagnose it so quickly."
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The very next day after his son's diagnosis using the FilmArray PCR testing, the FDA approved its use for the gastrointestinal panel, which means that all of this improved accuracy and faster testing is available to the general public via the Valley View lab.
FilmArray is an easy-to-use multiplex PCR system with a variety of diagnostic applications. Both the Respiratory Panel and the BCID Panel are comprehensive and, combined, test for more than 100 pathogens. For example, instead of pinpointing just the flu, this test can tell patients exactly what strain they have, such as H1N1.
All FilmArray tests can detect viruses, bacteria, yeast and antimicrobial resistance genes. And with the GI Panel, it also tests for gastrointestinal pathogens including viruses, bacteria and protozoa that cause infectious diarrhea.
Whether the hospital staff is trying to select appropriate therapy for a septic patient, or determine exactly which respiratory pathogen is making a young child sick, the FilmArray can return the answers quickly with incredible accuracy.
"It's a good thing to bring to the public's attention," says Spurlock, who is often the one testing samples. "It's awesome for people to have this here. For our son, it could have been a lot worse. At the very least without it we would have had to gone to Children's Hospital in Denver to be able to detect that bacteria, wasting a lot of precious time. This technology allows us to be very fast, and very accurate."