Battle with meningitis given boost

Dr Ruth Palmer, Kathryn Chandler and Shaun Beckwith with the Biofire Film Array, which has been bought thanks to donations to Blue Skies Hospitals Fund.
Dr Ruth Palmer, Kathryn Chandler and Shaun Beckwith with the Biofire Film Array, which has been bought thanks to donations to Blue Skies Hospitals Fund.
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Donations to hospital charity Blue Skies Hospitals Fund have been used to buy testing equipment which will rapidly speed up the diagnosis of encephalitis and meningitis.

The equipment, a Biofire Film Array, tests cerebrospinal fluid taken from patients who have come to hospital with suspected meningitis or encephalitis – a rare but serious condition that causes inflammation of the brain. It tests for several different bacteria and viruses, and the results come back within an hour of the test starting, allowing doctors to begin or amend any treatment.

From a patient’s point of view, if the test comes back negative the doctors can stop any treatment they’ve started

The equipment is based in Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Pathology Department which applied to Blue Skies – the charity for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – for the funding.

Before Blue Skies agreed to funding, the team would have to send the spinal fluid via medical taxi to Manchester for processing and results would be expected to take a minimum of two days.

Biomedical Scientist Dawn Singleton said: “From a patient’s point of view, if the test comes back negative the doctors can stop any treatment they’ve started.

“That’s as important as if the results come back positive when we would be able to properly tailor the treatment.

“A lot of viral illnesses do not need treatment at all, but previously a patient would be started on intravenous medication while the test was carried out.”

The Biofire is currently being set up, and should be in use within the hospital within a month.

It is hoped it will eventually be used not only for spinal fluid tests but other fluids as well which will help patients presenting with an array of symptoms.