Adults of all ages can get acute gastroenteritis, which is very painful and expensive for the American healthcare system. According to a recent study involving nearly 40,000 hospital visits from a geographically diverse healthcare database, sampling a single stool and using multiple polymerase chain reaction (PCR) panels can identify more pathogens and do so more quickly than a conventional workup. These pathogens include enteric viruses and E. coli, which can cause diarrhea. The study is published in the American Society for Microbiology journal Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

According to Rena C. Moon, M.D., M.P.H., Principal Research Scientist, PINC AI Applied Sciences, Charlotte, NC, “Fewer patients received antibiotics, required additional visits or diagnostic tests, or were hospitalized for gastroenteritis within 30 days [of index visit]” using multiple PCR panels.A single suspect pathogen species may be tested for using a stool culture, a single pathogen PCR test, or a pathogen’s identification using microscopy, immunology, or an ova and parasites test in a conventional workup. This study “illustrates the power of big data to analyze the healthcare impacts of diagnostic testing, and helps laboratories choose testing approaches that improve meaningful clinical outcomes,” according to Fang.

More patients could be discharged and didn’t need to stay in the hospital the following month thanks to multiplex PCR. As a result, patients undergoing the conventional stool work-up plus follow-up visits over the subsequent month incurred similar healthcare costs. Furthermore, fewer antibiotics were given to hospitalized patients when multiplex PCR (using 12 or more panels) was used.