Gene-testing system donated to Whidbey General Hospital


Whidbey General Hospital now has a gene-based testing system that can spot the “superbug” MRSA faster than ever.

With the combined philanthropy of the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation, Island Thrift, the Tulalip Tribes and the Norcliffe Foundation, Whidbey General Hospital was recently gifted an important laboratory instrument called the GeneXpert.

Hospital officials say the

GeneXpert testing system recognizes and magnifies a germ’s DNA, enabling the hospital to accurately measure it.

The hospital’s lab will use the device to do quick tests for the presence of the “superbug” MRSA, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, in selected patients.

The new instrument decreases the amount of time to identify specific MRSA staph organisms from one or two days to about four hours.

“The GeneXpert’s molecular testing platform is uniquely positioned to aid hospitals like WGH,” said Alice Smith, the hospital’s laboratory manager.

“Patients that are potential carriers of MRSA are admitted to the hospital at all hours of the day and night,” added Dr. Christopher Outlund, WGH’s chief of surgery.

“But until now, the technology had not existed to provide MRSA stat testing to enable real-time patient management decisions and reduce the spread of infection.”

The MRSA germ, which spreads easily by contact with another person’s skin or contaminated objects, is a serious hazard for hospital patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 94,360 cases of invasive MRSA in 2005 that resulted in

18,650 deaths. These deaths exceed the number from AIDS.

As with many other health concerns, frequent hand washing continues to be the best defense to protect oneself from acquiring the infection.

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