For a number of patients who come to HAS, our normal diagnostic capabilities are not sufficient to identify the specific pathogen which has caused their disease. As a result, the physicians must try several therapeutic courses until the disease shows some improvement. Sometimes, this is a difficult process for the physicians, who find that it is a bit like “fishing in the dark”.
Now, however, HAS is able to move more quickly to identify the source of these patients’ conditions and to select the drug which is best able to control the infection. Birgit Gast, a laboratorian from Germany, has been at HAS for several months establishing a microbiology laboratory, which has begun this week to process samples.
Recently-arrived Agar plates and testing media are now being used to culture samples of body fluids and to identify the most probable cause of the infection. Then the samples are processed through a susceptibility test, to identify which drug will be most effective in treating the disease.
Over time, HAS will be able to develop its own panel of common bacteria to narrow the choices for the pathogens and the most effective medicines. One of the most important benefits which emerge from this new service is the opportunity to identify drug-resistant bacteria in order to develop a more focused treatment regimen, and to reduce exposure to such pathogens. At this time, Haiti does not have a large incidence of highly drug-resistant organisms such as MRSA and VRSA, but the arrival of volunteer medical professionals from Europe and the US after the earthquake and the cholera epidemics raises the spectre of some of these “super bugs” to be brought to Haiti. With the new microbiology service, it will be possible to identify and treat such pathogens and to reduce their spread in Haiti.
This new service has long been a dream of Raphaela Maibach, who has served at HAS as a volunteer laboratorian, and it has been made possible through the generous support of the SWISS PARTNERSHIP HAS HAITI (SPHASH) and their many donors in Switzerland and Germany.