Bellvitge Hospital’s Microbiology Service opens new facilities to respond to the increased demand for tests throughout the territory

- Facilities

The new space improves the workflow and interaction among the diagnostic areas.

The Service, which is operational seven days a week, carried out more than 1.5 million tests in 2021.

The work of the Microbiology Service of Bellvitge Hospital is essential for many of its care areas as well as for patients from the ICS’s Southern Metropolitan Area.

In 2018, the Microbiology Service of the Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB) carried out 370,000 diagnostic tests. Just three years later, the figure quadrupled: in 2021, the service carried out 1,576,000 tests, 640,000 out of which were PCR and 63,000 SARS-CoV-2 serologies. "Not only has the diagnostic methodology has changed, but also the type and quantity of samples we receive. Our scope of work has also transformed: it has gone from patients admitted to the hospitals of Bellvitge, Viladecans and Duran i Reynals to now include also patients treated in the primary care and ASSIR teams of the ICS’s Southern Metropolitan Area. Now we receive samples from more than 80 extraction centres from that area," explains the head of the Microbiology Service of the HUB, Dr M. Ángeles Domínguez. The Microbiology Service is part of the South Metropolitan Territorial Clinical Laboratory and works three shifts (morning, afternoon and evening), seven days a week.

Thanks to the new facilities, which have been for a few weeks on floor 0 of the hospital, the Microbiology Service is able to respond to the increased volume of diagnostic tests with improved processes. The linear arrangement of the analysis equipment favours, for instance, much more efficient workflows and facilitates associations between the Service’s laboratories, such as bacteriology, antibiotic sensitivity, virology and molecular diagnostics, serology or mycobacteria. As Dr Domínguez explains, "in a large, well-organised space it is easier to share certain equipment and optimise its use". In this way, for example, several pieces of equipment for emergency diagnostics have been grouped together in the same area, improving the service. The antibiotic sensitivity laboratory has also been able to unify its equipment. This laboratory provides a continuous service for the surveillance of infections caused by bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, and collaborates closely with the Antibiotic Use Optimisation Programmes (PROA), both in the hospital setting and in primary care.

In the new spaces, specific technical areas, containing the equipment that generates noise, heat or that requires special installation conditions, have been designed and isolated from the rest of the facilities. In this way, most of the service's professionals, around a hundred doctors, residents and laboratory technicians, work in a space with good access and suitable environmental conditions.

The Microbiology Service has also special security areas. One of these is the Virology and Molecular Diagnostics laboratory, where samples are treated with the biosecurity measures required to guarantee the protection of professionals and avoid sample contamination. Still another one is the Mycobacteria laboratory, where the diagnosis of tuberculosis and other airborne infections is carried out. Moreover, this lab is equipped with a large biosecurity area with negative pressure, which prevents the spread of pathogens outside in the process of working with samples.

During 2021, the Microbiology Service of the HUB incorporated the study of genomic variants of SARS-CoV-2 using next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques. "This is a complex technology that we reserved for minority and research studies and implemented to support clinical diagnosis at a much higher rate than we would have imagined before COVID-19 thanks to the training of our professionals," stresses Dr Domínguez.

With the new facilities, the experience of the professionals and the technology that was incorporated during the pandemic, the Microbiology Service of the HUB is ready to assume its fundamental role in the diagnosis of infectious diseases. Microbiological diagnosis must have an increasingly greater impact on the individualised and early care of patients suffering from a serious infection, as well as on monitoring the spread of certain infections, rationalising the use of antibiotics and diagnosing infections caused by new agents. As the immediate future challenges for Microbiology, Dr M. Ángeles Dominguez highlights the automation of bacteriology and the strengthening of molecular diagnostic techniques, two areas in which the Microbiology Service of the HUB is working to be a leader.

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