Faster test results help young patients get better sooner

Faster diagnosis

Credit: WFAA

Five-year-old Chylesia Chiles spent two days in the hospital waiting for analysis of test results. New technology promises to speed that process.

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on July 4, 2012 at 4:57 PM

DALLAS — There are simply not enough activities to keep five-year-old Chylesia Chiles busy in the hospital.

Last Saturday, she was bitten by the family's puppy. After a trip to a neighborhood water park, Chylesia's leg started swelling.

"And then I keep on walking, but I just can't even walk," she said from her hospital bed at Children's Medical Center in Dallas.

"And Sunday morning when she woke up, she couldn't walk at all, so I brought her directly to the hospital," said Kamishia Frye, Chylesia's mother. "Scary. Very scary."

At the hospital, the infection spread visibly on Chylesia's little leg. Doctors had to wait days for specimens to grow in petri dishes so they could identify what was making her sick.

New technology going online at Children's Medical Center Dallas Monday will cut the diagnosis to 30 minutes.

"So that's going to save them 48 hours of not knowing as far as what's causing their disease," said Chris Doern, Children's Director of Clinical Microbiology. "And our physicians will be able to make more targeted treatments in a much more rapid time frame."

Dr. Doern calls the laboratory tool "huge."

The MALDI-TOF technology can quickly identify about 90 percent of the 10,000 bacterial and yeast identifications done in the hospital's lab each year. The test itself is also dramatically cheaper than the current methods.

According to the CDC, more than 48 million people get sick from food-borne bacteria, including salmonella, each year. And while adults may be more likely to endure uncomfortable symptoms, parents often bring their children to the hospital for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Without the technology, it took two days to determine Chylesia had a serious staph infection.

"As soon as they found out exactly what it was, they switched out her medication and it's been better ever since," Frye said, noting how much time and money could have been saved on ineffective medicine and expensive hospital overnight stays — not to mention pain and suffering — if Chylesia's infection had been identified sooner.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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