The Microbiology Laboratory features an expert team of MD and PhD microbiologists, manager, supervisor, technical specialists, medical laboratory technologists and medical laboratory assistants. The team works closely to develop and implement innovative microbiology diagnostics to enhance patient care.
The Microbiology services consist of several sections which include Bacteriology, Mycology, Virology and Molecular Diagnostic Microbiology. The detection and culture of tuberculosis bacteria is referred to the Public Health Ontario (PHO) Laboratory due to the requirement for a high-risk level isolation laboratory. Parasitology and molecular detection of Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis are also referred to the PHO Laboratory.
The Microbiology Laboratory program offers its services to the medical programs in Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The laboratory also offers its services to other healthcare facilities in Ontario through the Laboratory Reference Centre.
The Bacteriology Laboratory’s main function is to detect bacteria that are the causative agents of infection from patient specimens. Significant pathogens are identified and their susceptibility or resistance to antimicrobial agents is determined using a variety of methods. Patient samples submitted for investigation include blood, catheter tips, eye, ear, nose and throat samples, sputum and other lower respiratory samples, spinal fluids, other sterile-site body fluids, feces, urine, tissues, biopsies, wound samples, genital samples and transplant specimens such as stem cells and corneal rims.
Screening for antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA, VRE, ESBL, CPE and other highly resistant organisms for the purposes of infection prevention and control within the hospital environment is done using specialized methods requiring highly trained technical staff to interpret and perform follow-up testing of these bacteria.
Bacteriology is a 24/7/365 service. The Bacteriology laboratory is located at the Hamilton General site.
The Microbiology Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory supports all the sections within Microbiology for which nucleic acid detection methods (PCR and others) have been developed.
For bacteriology-related investigations in support of diagnosis and infection prevention and control within the hospital environment, the molecular laboratory performs:
- Real-time PCR testing for the detection of Clostridium difficile toxin.
- Confirmatory testing of VRE isolates to determine the mechanism of resistance as well as confirm its species identification using PCR technology.
- Strain typing of VRE, MRSA, Clostridium difficile and any other suspected outbreak organisms using PFGE and REP-PCR methods. This service is also provided to external hospitals through the Laboratory Reference Centre.
The HRLMP Microbiology Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory is certified by the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML), Winnipeg to strain type MRSA.
For virology-related investigations, the molecular laboratory employs real-time PCR methodology to detect herpes simplex and enterovirus from spinal fluid. Real-time PCR technology is also used to detect respiratory and enteric viruses. Viral load testing is performed for the transplantation programs to determine the viral concentrations of Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Polyomavirus (BK) in plasma.
The Microbiology Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory is located at the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Charlton site. It operates on a 7-day basis from 0800-1700h. During influenza season the Microbiology Molecular Diagnostic laboratory operates on a 7-day basis from 0700-2300h
The Mycology Laboratory focuses on the isolation of yeasts and moulds from many body sites. Specimen examination is performed using microscopic analysis, serologic detection (Cryptococcus) and culture techniques. Susceptibility testing of significant yeast isolates is performed for a variety of antifungal agents.
Specimens investigated include blood, organ tissue, lower respiratory tract samples, spinal fluids, other sterile-site fluids, wounds and superficial specimens such as hair, skin and nails. A non-cultural method is used to detect Pneumocystis jirovecii from lower respiratory tract specimens. Galactomannan testing from bronchial alveolar lavage specimens and serum is available to aid in the diagnosis of invasive aspergillosis and is performed in the serology section of the Virology laboratory at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Charlton site. The Mycology laboratory supports the cancer and transplantation programs for its immunosuppressed patients who are susceptible to fungal infections.
The Mycology Laboratory operates mainly on a 5-day service basis (Monday – Friday), 0800-1600h and is located at the Hamilton General site. Cryptococcal antigen and Pneumocystis detection tests are available 7 days/week.
A major focus of the Virology Laboratory is the detection of respiratory, enteric and herpes group viruses using cultural and immunofluorescent procedures as well as molecular procedures for specimen types including blood, body lesions, spinal fluids, other sterile-site body fluids, eye, ear, nose, throat, genital tract, feces, tissues, biopsies, urine and wounds.
Diagnosis of viral disease states such as hepatitis and cytomegalovirus as well as determining immune status to many viruses such as mumps, measles, rubella, etc. are performed using serological methods. Infectious disease screening is carried out for hematopoietic and renal transplant donors and recipients.
The Virology laboratory is licensed by the Ministry of Health to perform HIV screening for occupational exposure, transplantation donors and recipients and maternal testing of patients in labour who have no record of prenatal HIV screening. A rapid HIV test has been introduced specifically for maternal testing of high-risk patients in labour.
The Virology Laboratory is located at the St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Charlton site. It operates on a 7-day basis from 0800-1600h. During influenza season the Virology Laboratory operates on a 7-day basis from 0700-2300h.
Molecular Diagnostics and Virology
St. Joseph’s Healthcare
Monday to Sunday, 0800 – 1600
Monday to Sunday, 0800 – 2300 during flu season
Microbiology and Mycology
Hamilton General Hospital
24 hours/day, 7 days/week