WASHINGTON, May 24, 2011 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) award-winning podcast series, “Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions,” focuses on new blood test that can quickly tell whether patients are infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that’s become a global threat, significantly improving treatment.
This “superbug” is called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or simply MRSA. The podcast explains how MRSA started off as a threat mainly in hospitals and nursing homes among patients with open wounds, urinary catheters and weakened immune systems. Older people and children were frequent victims. But these infections, which shrug off many of the most powerful traditional antibiotics, are now occurring in locker rooms, gyms and other settings in the general community.
And these superbugs are now attacking healthy people. MSRA strikes at least 280,000 people in the United States alone every year. Almost 20,000 of those patients die. The cost of treating a single case often exceeds $20,000.
Diagnosing MSRA infections quickly is important, so that treatment can begin immediately with the right antibiotic, explains Kent Voorhees, Ph.D., who is featured in the new episode. Voorhees and former Ph.D. student Angelo Madonna developed the technology for a fast new blood MSRA blood test, just approved for general medical use by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration. Marketed by MicroPhage, Inc., the KeyPath™ MRSA/MSSA Blood Culture Test uses paper strips to diagnose these infections so that treatment can begin within hours, rather than days. Voorhees is with the Department of Chemistry & Geochemistry, Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo.
“A correct diagnosis is critical so that physicians can start the right treatment as soon as possible and so they can take proper precautions to prevent the spread of an infection to other patients and to healthcare workers,” says Voorhees. “We developed a test that can tell whether a patient has MRSA or an illness that could be more responsive to conventional treatments. The new test takes only five hours, whereas current methods can take up to three days. Every day and every hour matters when you deal with MRSA infections.”
Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st Century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. The series is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry, thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water; developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society; preserving the environment and assuring a sustainable future for our children; and improving human health.