Posted on: 08/07/2016

New blood test prevents unwarranted prescribing of antibiotics

The new test identifies whether an infection is caused by a virus or bacteria help prevent unwarranted prescribing of antibiotics. This test works by identifying seven human genes whose activity changes during an infection, and whose pattern of activity can reveal whether an infection is bacterial or viral.

The diagnostic test, described in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine, is being developed by the Stanford University School of Medicine in California. Many diagnostics focus on trying to find bacteria in the bloodstream, but most infected people don't have bloodstream infections, meaning such tests aren't helpful. In contrast, our test can detect an infection anywhere in the body by reading the immune system.

Often, patients are prescribed antibiotics because the drugs are cheap. Drug-resistant bacteria are blamed for two million illnesses. The new test must undergo trials in a clinical setting, since most of the research until now has been focused on pre-existing, online digital data sets of gene expression in various patients. The seven-gene test was found to be accurate on blood samples from 96 critically ill children. Before the test can make it to market, it must also be incorporated into a device that can give a result in an hour or less.

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