Governors visit our Microbiology department

Five hospital governors visited the Microbiology department at the Innovation Centre to find out more about their work.

The department is part of the Eastern Pathology Alliance, a managed pathology network providing clinical biochemistry, immunology, haematology, blood transfusion, andrology and microbiology services to GP practices and all hospitals across Norfolk and Waveney.

Each day the Microbiology Team processes thousands of specimens from swabs, body fluids and human tissue to diagnose patient infections. Last year, 1,095,189 tests were performed.

In Bacteriology, bacteria are grown on agar plates and are identified depending on their genetic and biochemical properties and antibiotic susceptibility patterns are established.

In Virology, samples are tested via PCR (a technique which identifies specific DNA or RNA) or are identified based on antigens or antibodies present during or following an infection. Results are conveyed to the requestors via the Consultant Microbiologists and Virologists who offer clinical and infection control advice.

The team were also heavily involved in Covid-19 testing during the pandemic. This included the Covid PCR testing where up to 2,500 samples per day were processed per day, and LAMP testing which diagnosed the Covid-19 virus via saliva samples submitted by asymptomatic staff.

The lab recently implemented a quality improvement service for speeding up diagnosis of sepsis across the three acute hospitals in Norfolk, collaborating with the blood sciences laboratories at each site to do this.

“We work as microbe detectives, analysing samples for bacteria, viruses and fungi to find what’s causing ill-health and the correct treatment options,” said Stephanie Walker-Ward, Interim Microbiology Network Manager.

“Not only do we need the correct specimen in the correct container which is within the use by date to do this, we also need as much background information about the patient and their illness as possible. For example, clinical staff need to include relevant clinical details such as symptoms, signs, travel, comorbidities and medication.

Sometimes, even information about their profession or pets maybe useful. Treatment can start at an earlier stage if we can quickly pinpoint the microbe that is responsible for the illness.”

“Seeing behind the scenes in the labs gave us a fascinating insight into modern medicine and the support structure which sits behind the diagnosis of many medical conditions by clinical staff on the wards. The enthusiasm of the staff in the labs for the work they do was visible and inspiring”, said Lead Governor Erica Betts.

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