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Penn Vet to evaluate first-of-its-kind point-of-care pathogen-detection system

Over the next few months, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) will be evaluating the efficacy of the MiQLab, a new genetic analyzer designed to do real-time veterinary diagnostic testing at the point-of-care—a veterinary hospital.

The technology could be a gamechanger.

MiQLab stands for multiplex integrated quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) lab. Multiplex diagnostic testing is simultaneous on-site detection of different analytes from a single specimen, while qPCR monitors a targeted DNA molecule during the PCR, not at its end, as in conventional PCR testing.

Developed by Beverly, Massachusetts–based LexaGene, MiQLab is the first point-of-care multiplex diagnostic device designed for use in veterinary hospitals. The company says that the MiQLab can analyze a patient’s sample for up to 27 different pathogens and produce results in one hour—meaning that the correct course of treatment can be offered as soon as the results are in, instead of waiting the usual two to five days that sending patient samples out to a laboratory usually entails.

LexaGene made the MiQLab available to Penn Vet’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital for evaluation as part of the company’s Early Access Program—LexaGene CEO and founder Jack Regan, PhD, told NEWStat he believes that the technology can significantly improve veterinary hospitals’ turnaround times for testing.

NEWStat contacted Shelley Rankin, PhD, a professor of clinical microbiology and head of Diagnostic Services at Penn Vet to find out more.

Rankin says hospital staff will evaluate the device by testing clinical specimens from Penn Vet patients such as “urine, skin swabs, tracheal washes, pleural fluid, abdominal fluid, and cerebrospinal fluid before moving on to some of the more complex specimen types such as blood,” and comparing those results with the results of traditional lab testing.

Rankin told NEWStat she’s been using the system for a week now and says the results are “very promising.”

“There are always cases that require a rapid diagnosis to [rule in] a pathogen and target antimicrobial therapy to improve clinical outcome in patients at a tertiary referral hospital like Penn Vet,” she said. “There are very few stat microbiology tests that provide an organism identification and some guidance regarding appropriate therapy. [This technology] will allow diagnostic labs to provide this information to the clinicians they serve the same day that the specimen is received.”

She said another useful approach in a veterinary hospital will be the ability to rapidly rule out infection prior to the initiation of other drugs, such as chemotherapy: “Similarly, it could be used prior to surgery, or to indicate that surgery is medically necessary.”

Rankin said there’s a very simple reason why microbiological culture is not performed as often as it could or should be: “It takes too long.”

Rapid molecular tests and syndromic panels are currently available, she added, but you still have to send the test out to the diagnostic lab and wait for the results: “[This technology] will allow some of these tests to be run in the clinic on the day the sample is collected, and . . . provide results, positive or negative, very quickly.”

The MiQLab is currently available for sale to veterinarians, and LexaGene’s Regan says they will start to fulfill the first orders in December. He concedes that the MiQLab is expensive and a hospital would need to see a certain number of patients each week—and run enough lab tests—to justify the expense.

Rankin for one is excited by the possibilities: “Point-of-care molecular diagnostics are the future of good clinical practice, and it’s time to take them out of the diagnostic lab and put them in the hands of the people who need them.”

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