When you go to the doctor with a sickness you can’t seem to shake, the first thing they will usually try to figure out is if they’re dealing with a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial infections usually require treatment with antibiotics, but prescribing them unnecessarily can contribute to antibiotic resistance and won’t make you feel any better. To help determine the cause of an illness with certainty, a team of researchers is working on a rapid test based on “gene expression.”
Traditionally, doctors screen for bacterial infections by testing for common bacteria, like Streptococcus, or carefully analyzing symptoms to make the call. This new test relies on the fact that each pathogen activates a different set of genes. This in turn varies RNA or protein production, which can be detected in a small blood sample.
The test’s creators partnered with a company called BioFire to test the product on more than 600 emergency room patients. It identified bacterial infections with 80 percent accuracy and viral infections with nearly 87 percent accuracy. The researchers plan to continue to improve the reliability of the test and hope it will soon provide a resource for reducing antibiotic resistance and speeding up patient care.
Source study: Critical Care Medicine – Discriminating Bacterial and Viral Infection Using a Rapid Host Gene Expression Test