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A big advancement in Laboratory Medicine now at Guelph General Hospital

Oct. 4 – If a patient at the Hospital is suspected to have an infection, the traditional way of identifying its cause was to take a sample, send it to the lab, grow it for two or three days then try to identify the microorganism under a microscope. With its latest piece of equipment, the Hospital’s lab is now able to zap a sample with a laser and have the results within minutes.

maldi tof The machine, MALDI-TOF (Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization – time of flight), blasts the sample into a million bits of protein then compares it against a database of protein profiles to make a final identification in just 50 minutes. The quality of the identification is state of the art and results in improved patient care. Before, the Hospital’s microbiology lab used to grow about 50,000 cultures a year to help identify microorganisms causing patient infections. It was an expensive, time-consuming process.

The Hospital was aware of the machine’s benefits even before it was purchased. Last year, the Hospital borrowed the use of a similar machine at the Ontario Veterinary Hospital at the University of Guelph. One of the Hospital’s medical units was experiencing an above normal level of c. Diff infections.

“We were very concerned,” said Dr. Jennifer Caspers, GGH's Chief of Staff.  The patients went into isolation and whether or not to declare an official outbreak was being considered.

Thanks to the generous offer from OVC, samples of the patients’ c. Diff were analyzed using its Maldi-TOF. The results showed the bacteria from each patient weren’t exactly the same which meant the organism wasn’t being spread within the unit. The declaration of an outbreak – along with all its repercussions such as restricted visiting and enhanced cleaning – was avoided.

“Our medical staff and nurses breathed a sigh of relief,” Dr. Caspers said.

The $250,000 purchase of the MALDI-TOF was made possible by generous donors though the Foundation’s Circle of Life collective philanthropy program. 

“Circle of Life donors were excited by this project - the innovation, the positive impact on our patients, and the efficiency gains for the Hospital,” commented Foundation CEO and Circle of Life member Suzanne Bone.