NHS Lothian labs use PCR tests to help speed diagnosis of Strep A and reduce spread of infection
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The NHS Lothian laboratory teams are the first in Scotland to develop and use PCR testing – best-known for detecting Covid – to identify Group A Strep illnesses in people admitted to hospital. The tests are proving vital in helping to reduce the onward spread of the infections, which are particularly dangerous for children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Patients suspected of having a Group A Strep illness are normally treated swiftly with antibiotics, but that affects the success of more traditional testing methods, meaning an accurate diagnosis is more difficult and can take longer. The introduction of PCR testing, which is not affected by antibiotics, means patients are being diagnosed more accurately and much more quickly, meaning treatments can be tailored and the potential for further spread of infection can be significantly reduced.
Dr Kate Templeton, head of molecular diagnostics at NHS Lothian, said: “While the ongoing impacts of Covid are still being felt across healthcare, and society more generally, a more positive outcome of the pandemic has been the wealth of research and innovation within laboratory testing and diagnostics.
“Within NHS Lothian, we are taking the experience and knowledge gained throughout the pandemic and applying that to other health conditions. The development and use of the PCR test, which had more commonly been used in response to Covid, for Group A Strep illnesses is hugely important. Not only is it providing quicker diagnosis, but it is helping to reduce the spread of these infections and ultimately it is saving lives.”
The Lothian labs team is now processing PCR tests for suspected Group A Strep illnesses for all health boards across Scotland, a vitally important role amid the ongoing surge in respiratory illness that is being seen across the country and adding to pressures on hospitals.
Calum Campbell, chief executive of NHS Lothian, said: “The NHS Lothian laboratory teams did incredible work throughout the pandemic, but they haven’t stopped there. This new development, which builds on their immense knowledge, and the investment we have made in this area, is now proving vital as Scotland’s healthcare system responds to increased and sustained levels of respiratory illnesses.
“The introduction of the PCR test will mean Scotland’s hospitals can diagnose Group A Strep illnesses more quickly, improving treatment options for patients and minimising the potential spread of infection. This innovation is proving invaluable now, but will continue to play a vital role in future years. I am immensely proud of the laboratory teams for their ongoing work in this area, and as they continue to support not just NHS Lothian, but Scotland’s other health boards throughout this particularly difficult winter.”