Scientists are reporting development and successful testing of a rapid and accurate test to tell the difference between bacterial and viral infections. Those common afflictions often have similar symptoms but vastly different treatments — antibiotics work for bacterial infections but not for viruses. The report appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.
Robert Marks, Daria Prilutsky, and colleagues cite the importance of determining the source of an infection in order to quickly start the right treatment. If left untreated until results of a throat culture, for instance, are in, bacterial infections can get worse. But needlessly giving antibiotics to patients with a viral infection could contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Since current diagnostic methods to sort out the two kinds of infection are time-consuming and may not be completely accurate, the researchers sought to develop a new test that would enable doctors to rapidly make the right diagnosis.
They found that the immune systems of patients with bacterial infections behaved differently than the immune systems of patients with viral infections, and developed a test based on those differences. "The method is time-saving, easy to perform and can be commercially available, thus, having predictive diagnostic value and could be implemented in various medical institutions as an adjunct to clinical decision making," say the researchers.
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