Diagnostics & Imaging Week

3M Health Care (St. Paul, Minnesota) has set its sights on the diagnostics business, reporting Monday the launch of a new Medical Diagnostics business unit that will focus on developing and commercializing rapid diagnostics for the detection of what it called “key” infectious pathogens.

Those pathogens include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and other treatment-resistant microbes.

“We’re making it known as of today that we’re entering this diagnostics area specifically in infection prevention diagnostics to give customers what they’re asking for, which are easier tests [that are] very rapid compared to what’s on the market today,” Angela Dillow, PhD, global business manager, 3M Medical Diagnostics, told Diagnostics & Imaging Week.

Dillow called the Medical Diagnostics unit a “natural extension” of its existing infection prevention business, one that began 30 years ago with the development of loban incise antimicrobial surgical drapes. 3M Health Care is one of 3M’s six major business segments and is a provider of products for not only medical, but also dental, orthodontic and health information markets, the company said.

With this new diagnostics business unit, 3M said it will offer hospitals new rapid diagnostic tests to detect the presence of potentially destructive microbes before they spread and potentially infect other patients.

The company will be offering three different platforms, Dillow said, all of which are “a combination of internal development — organically developed platforms — and technologies to which [3M has] gained access through acquisition,” she said.

Dillow said the medical diagnostics unit will address the “many market trends pointing to the need” for such infection control tests both in the U.S. and abroad. For example, the Medical Diagnostics unit will be launching its first product next month in Europe, where its first test already has the CE mark.

The first three tests in the U.S., which still require a green light from the FDA, are expected to be launched later this year. Some of them will be point-of-care and others will be lab-based, she said.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta) estimates that annually about 90,000 deaths are due to hospital-acquired, or so-called nosocomial, infections. The CDC this past December issued new guidelines outlining strategies to prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections in healthcare facilities. The guidelines specifically call for the screening of patients at high risk for carrying drug-resistant bacterial infections in hospitals that do not improve their healthcare-associated infection rates.

The company said that in the U.S., current infection prevention patient screening activities include no screening at all, traditional cultures that require 48 hours to provide results, or molecular diagnostics, which the company said are more costly.

3M said its tests will “simplify the diagnostic testing process and provide more rapid results than traditional microbiology tests for the detection of key microbes such as Staphylococcus aureus, MRSA and influenza A and B.

The company expects its tests to allow physicians to make faster decisions regarding their patients and the possibility of infection. It also expects labs to be able to reduce the amount of time conducting the tests, which it said could lead to “reduced healthcare costs and improved laboratory profitability.”

Dillow told D&IW that while, at the moment, 3M is “sticking to [its] strategy” to offer diagnostics in infection control, the market ultimately can expect the company to “fill out [its] product portfolio and offer total solutions in infection prevention.”

Nosocomial infections have been on the increase for some time now. According to 3M, a prevalence survey conducted under the auspices of the World Health Organization (Geneva) in 55 hospitals in 14 countries showed an average of 8.7% of hospital patients had acquired infections in those facilities. At any time, more than 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from complications from infections acquired in hospitals.