Molecular Microbiology & Virology

The Microbiology Division of DMCUL consists of Microbiology, Virology, Serology and Molecular Infectious Disease Laboratories. The Microbiology Division has 78 full time employees including two M.D. medical directors, two Ph.D technical directors, two supervisors, 52 ASCP certified medical technologists and 20 laboratory assistants.  With an average of 15 years of experience in clinical microbiology per medical technologist, our highly trained staff provides a high level of expertise and service.

The Core Microbiology Laboratory incorporates bacteriology (aerobic and anaerobic), mycobacteriology, mycology, parasitology, and antimicrobial susceptibility testing while operating continuously 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Our Laboratory is considered a high volume and highly complex environment that performed more than 1.2 million billable tests in 2008 including nearly 100,000 blood cultures.  In order to efficiently process such a large number of blood cultures while maintaining an excellent turnaround time for the clinician, the laboratory was one of the first in the nation to utilize advanced PNA-FISH technology with all qualifying blood cultures.  This advancement allows for the identification of serious pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans and Enterococcus faecalis within 3- 8 hours of positive growth (compared to 12-48 hours using conventional methods).

Our commitment to continual improvement in service and patient care has resulted in the implementation of numerous technological enhancements to allow for higher throughput and faster turnaround times.  One example of such an enhancement is the recent implementation of the BD Affirm™ VPIII Microbial Identification Test; utilized to provide a more accurate and expedient identification of vaginitis through the use of molecular probes for Candida species, Gardnerella vaginalis and Trichomonas vaginalis.  This single test can replace the independently ordered 12,000 bacterial vaginosis smears, 14,000 Trichomonas cultures and 14,000 yeast cultures received annually, allowing for more accurate and rapid identification for clinicians.

The Core Virology and Molecular Infectious Disease Laboratory is a rapidly growing and productive division that combines classic methods of virus growth and identification with cutting edge technology in molecular methods.  The Molecular Infectious Diseases Laboratory has 6 full time medical technologists, one of whom is the group leader and the Virology Laboratory has 6 full time medical technologists with one supervisor managing both laboratories.  The strengths of both the virology and molecular laboratories were highlighted in the 2009 Novel H1N1 Influenza (swine flu) pandemic.  From the unforeseen start in May to its peak in October, the Virology Laboratory processed nearly 8,000 rapid influenza tests, while continuing to maintain its commitment to a guaranteed turnaround time of 3 hours from receipt in the laboratory to result in the clinician’s hand.  Not to be outdone, the Molecular Laboratory successfully took on the challenge of developing a PCR assay that not only offered increased sensitivity for the detection of Influenza A but also offered the specific identification of the novel H1N1 Influenza virus, allowing for clinicians to make more informed decisions regarding cohorting and treatment.

The Virology and Molecular Laboratories continue to move forward in other areas of significance as well, such as in the enhanced detection of the sexually transmitted diseases of Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC).  At a current volume of nearly 200,000 tests in 2008, CT/GC testing is the highest volume test done in the Microbiology Division at DMCUL.  Since the introduction of the BD ProbeTec DNA amplification assay for the detection of CT and GC in 2000, the laboratories have continued to implement the latest improvements to this technology, culminating in the installation of a second high throughput BD Viper robotic instrument in order to facilitate our high level of testing standards.  These improvements have allowed the laboratories to stay at the front of the technology curve, ensuring rapid turn around time to the clinician and maximizing the sensitivity and specificity of the test result.