LIVERMORE -- Using an advanced DNA-based technology, Lawrence Livermore Lab researchers have detected previously unnoticed bacterial pathogens in the wounds of American soldiers, an advance that could improve medical treatment for combat troops, lab officials announced Wednesday.
As part of a three-year study, lab scientists -- collaborating with researchers from four other institutions -- used the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA) to find bacteria in about one-third of wound samples for which standard detection methods, such as a culture, showed no bacteria present.
The team's findings will be published in the July print edition of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.
Scientists hope the discovery will lead to a more timely and more comprehensive diagnosis of battlefield infections, meaning shorter rehabilitation times and fewer hospital stays.
"The advantage is we can detect bacteria or viruses that are very difficult to detect in the lab using traditional methods," said Livermore Lab biomedical scientist Nicholas Be, the paper's lead author. "These types of wounds are incredibly complex; there really is a need for faster and more precise diagnostics. Being able to have information about specific species of bacteria is useful; not only does it give you information about the wound, but it also allows you to treat the patient."
Scientists from the Naval Medical Research Center and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and UC Davis participated in the study. Using a Livermore Lab-developed array capable of detecting any previously sequenced bacteria or virus within 24 hours, they analyzed 124 wound samples from 44 combat-injured soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Researchers discovered some types of bacteria common in hospital-related infections -- like Pseudomonas -- were predominately found in wounds that didn't heal successfully. Gastrointestinal bacteria, such as E. coli, were more frequently detected in wounds that did heal.
The Defense Department's Defense Medical Research and Development Program funded the study.
Besides benefiting the military, Be said the advance could be adapted to a clinical setting, allowing doctors to tailor antibiotic regimens to individual patients as their wounds progress.
"This could certainly be applied to the civilian world," Be said.
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