Antibiotics, one of the greatest breakthroughs in modern medicine, can successfully fight life-threatening infections. However, misuse and overuse of antibiotics are responsible for antibiotic resistance, when the prescribed drug becomes ineffective to treat the bacterial infection.
Faced with the delay in identifying the bacteria or virus which is responsible for an infection, doctors often prescribe antibiotics. But as antibiotics work only on bacteria, this leads to overuse/misuse of the drug and antibiotic resistance.
According to a recent BBC report, researchers from several medical centers in Israel claim that their efforts to resolve the problem of antibiotic resistance have borne fruit. They claim to have come up with a new rapid blood test that can help detect whether an infection is caused by a virus or bacteria within two hours.
The study, conducted in collaboration with the company MeMed and published in Plos One, describes a test that can
- identify a possible infection in its early stage
- differentiate between a possible viral or bacterial cause
The researchers say this test could stop patients being given antibiotics when they are not needed. This will allow informed clinical intervention, for instance, preventing the physician from prescribing an antibiotic in the case of a viral infection like a common cold.
The researchers analyzed blood samples of 1,002 children and adults who had been admitted to hospital. They found the tests could correctly detect a virus or a bacterial infection in most of the cases. The test is based on the fact that bacteria and viruses can trigger different protein pathways once they infect the body.
Further research including randomized controlled trials will be needed to determine if the test can be used in a clinical setting.
Blood testing is the most important preventive tool as it helps diagnose health problems before they turn deadly. Many recent studies have highlighted the use of blood tests in detecting various conditions such as dementia, bowel cancer, Parkinson’s disease and even autism in toddlers.