New blood test may help determine if a patient with a respiratory illness is suffering from a virus or bacterial infection

This is a pivot of research investigation in the effort to see if a respiratory illness is viral and will not respond to antibiotics, versus bacterial and needing antibiotics. “The test…flips bacteria and virus testing on its head.” Rather than “searching for hallmark signs of specific bugs, it scans the infected person’s genetic reaction to the microbe.” Bill Chesnut, MD

New blood test may help determine if a patient with a respiratory illness is suffering from a virus or bacterial infection

CBS News (1/20, Marcus) reports that “a new blood test is in the works that could help” physicians determine whether “a patient with a respiratory illness is suffering from a virus or a bacterial infection, or even a non-infectious condition with similar symptoms.” This “test could help cut back on the serious problem of antibiotic overuse, say the” researchers “who developed it.”

TIME (1/20, Park) reports that “the test…flips bacteria and virus testing on its head.” Rather than “searching for hallmark signs of specific bugs, it scans the infected person’s genetic reaction to the microbe.” The test “takes advantage of the fact that our bodies react differently to bacteria and viruses by activating different genes that are part of the immune system.” Research on the test was published in Science Translational Medicine.

HealthDay (1/20, Dotinga) reports that the researchers “tried the test out on 273 people with respiratory infections and 44 healthy people.” Altogether, “the test was accurate 87 percent of the time in distinguishing between bacterial and viral infections, and infections caused by something else.”

AMA Morning Rounds 1.21.16