New blood test can reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescription
We need to find new ways to avoid overuse of antibiotics. Researchers have now found that an inexpensive blood test can determine whether an infection is caused by a virus or a bacterium. This could prevent unauthorized antibiotic prescriptions. These drugs are useless in the treatment of viral infections.
Scientists from the accredited Stanford University School of Medicine in California found that a simple blood test can tell if people have a bacterial or viral infection. In this way, the unjustified use of antibiotics can be avoided. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Science Translational Medicine".
So far there has often been a lack of clarity about the type of infection
For a long time, doctors couldn't immediately say what type of infection people have, explains lead author Timothy Sweeney of Stanford University. When people are admitted to a clinic, it is often not possible to determine precisely whether the patient may be suffering from a viral or bacterial infection.
New test identifies the activity of seven human genes
The new test - which is not yet on the market - identifies seven human genes. Their activity changes during an infection and their so-called activity pattern can then be used to determine whether an infection is viral or bacterial, say the doctors. Many diagnostic methods try to find bacteria in our bloodstream, but most infected people have no bloodstream infections. That's why such tests are not really helpful, says Sweeney.
Blood test could reduce the spread of resistant bacterial strains
Scientists are always discovering new methods to detect dangerous diseases with simple blood tests. For example, experts have already found that a simple blood test could predict heart attacks. But are there any blood tests that can help us prevent the spread of resistant strains of bacteria? The new test is said to be able to detect an infection anywhere in the body because it evaluates our immune system. The new method is significantly better to rule out bacterial infections, the authors say. The idea to develop such a test came after other research had shown that our immune system shows a common reaction to several viruses. This differs from the response to bacterial infections, says Professor Purvesh Khatri of Stanford University.
New blood tests must be inexpensive
If further research shows that the new test is working properly and is cost-effective, this test could help prevent the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens in the future. Antibiotics are often prescribed to patients because the drugs are cheap. If our new test is to really change anything, it has to be cheaper than the drug itself, explains Professor Khatri.
Every third antibiotic prescription in the United States is superfluous
The fear of resistant bacterial strains continues to grow. So far, about two million diseases and 23,000 deaths a year in the United States are due to resistant bacteria, the experts explain. One reason for this is the often senseless prescriptions of antibiotics. Scientists estimate that about every third antibiotic prescription is unnecessary in US medical facilities.
Further investigations are necessary before the new test comes onto the market
The new test has yet to undergo further studies in a clinical setting, since most of the studies so far focus on existing digital online data sets of gene expression in different patients, the authors explain. Before the test can be launched on the market, it must also be installed in a device that is able to evaluate and display the test results within an hour. A commercial version of the clinical trial test is estimated to be available in about 18 to 24 months, Sweeny says. (as)