Healthcare-associated infections, which are infections contracted in a healthcare setting, pose a serious risk to patients, staff and visitors that not only represents a potential source of morbidity and mortality, but can also incur major costs. Proactive infection prevention and control is a key priority for healthcare institutions worldwide.

Hospital hygiene management describes the recognition, control, and prevention of infections that occur in healthcare settings. Strain-typing technologies are central to microbial agent identification in this context, but traditional typing technologies are resource-intensive and not readily available in many microbiological laboratories, highlighting the need for a new approach.

Introducing rapid strain typing

The Bruker IR Biotyper streamlines strain typing, enabling rapid identification of outbreaks and real-time monitoring of transmission routes in a healthcare setting to inform immediate preventative action.

The system offers a simple workflow which, following sample harvesting from culture, suspension preparation, spotting onto a plate, and drying, can process a 96-well sample plate in approximately 90 minutes. It is based on Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy and enables rapid microorganism classification in routine use, with high specificity and discriminatory power that is comparable to molecular genetics-based methods. It works by analysing the molecular vibrations, caused by the absorption of IR light, that can be attributed to specific chemical structures, producing a molecular ‘fingerprint’ that allows discrimination of microorganisms at the subspecies and serotype level.

The powerful new software of the IR Biotyper offers smart isolate classification based on predefined models using artificial neural networks (ANN).

Combining technologies

Known strains can be detected in near-real time using ANN, and predefined isolate classification supports rapid subtype and serogroup identification. This is supported by a data visualisation traffic light system for simple, at-a-glance data interpretation.

The IR Biotyper can also be combined with Bruker’s MALDI Biotyper, which uses matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDITOF MS) to identify organisms at the species or genus level in a single workflow, enabling analyses with increased specificity.

Combating Candida

Candida auris is an infectious yeast that can cause death if infection reaches the heart or brain. The danger posed by C. auris is particularly apparent in elderly and immunocompromised people, and is amplified by its tendency to exhibit resistance to all three classes of antifungal therapy. The threat is being taken seriously; C. auris has been classified in the most critical priority group in the 2022 World Health Organization (WHO) report that highlights the first ever list of fungal “priority pathogens” – a catalog of the 19 fungi that represent the greatest threat to public health. According to the WHO, “The incidence and geographic range of fungal diseases are expanding worldwide due to global warming and the increase of international travel and trade.”

Outbreaks of C. auris in hospital settings require a rapid response to minimise harm to patients at particular risk due to their typically immunocompromised status. At the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, researchers are pioneering a first line of defence system using the IR Biotyper to identify the strain type of the fungus via IR spectroscopy, starting from culture for positive samples. This system has been used to screen over 700 at-risk patients at the facility in a single year, with 28 positive for C. auris. Cedars-Sinai is building a database of all patients admitted with a positive test.

Bruker’s IR Biotyper is making valuable contributions to the fight against healthcare-acquired infections, enabling data-driven hygiene management and rapid preventative action.