Scientists have developed a method whereby a simple blood test can indicate the need for antibiotics.
The experts have come up with a novel technique by the help of which it can be found out whether a respiratory infection is caused by a bacteria or a virus. Thus antibiotics may be administered as per requirement.
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The precision with which prescriptions can be made is what it is all about. The gene doctors at Duke University have introduced what can only be said to be gene signatures.
These tell whether a patient’s genes are active or inactive. The two stated reflect whether the body is fighting infection or not.
The fact can be known via a simple blood test. A study was conducted and the results got published in the January 20th issue of Science Translational Medicine.
Rates of accuracy were 87% regarding the signs that told whether patients had influenza, rhinovirus, strep bacteria or any other miscellaneous infectious diseases.
The absence of an infection also appeared in the results of the blood test. This new blood test which is still in its nascent stages could tell whether an infectious illness is due to bacteria or a virus. The suitable cure would then be easy to select from a wide array of choices.
"A respiratory infection is one of the most common reasons people come to the doctor," said lead author Ephraim L. Tsalik, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at Duke and emergency medicine provider at the Durham VA Medical Center.
"We use a lot of information to make a diagnosis, but there's not an efficient or highly accurate way to determine whether the infection is bacterial or viral. About three-fourths of patients end up on antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection despite the fact that the majority have viral infections. There are risks to excess antibiotic use, both to the patient and to public health."
Respiratory infections are the most common reason why people consult a general practitioner. While there is a large compendium of data that can be used by the doctor to make a diagnosis, the future blood test will make things close to 100% accurate.
Such mix-ups and blunders as prescribing antibiotics for a viral infection will then be a thing of the past. Since antibiotics carry several risks, care is of the essence. Those with respiratory illnesses were studied in the observatory analysis.
Most cases of influenza can be given Tamiflu, but the essential treatment consists of bed rest and the consumption of lots of healthy fluids such as fruit juices and chicken soup.
Within the next half decade or so, mankind will have advanced to the level where antiviral drugs will be prescribed for patients showing symptoms of flu. Even the common cold will be an extinct phenomenon by then.
Using the present day medical technology, the gene expression of a patient in the form of a blood test takes up to half a day to complete. Researchers are busy trying to speed up the process so that it will only take an hour in the future.
"The ideal scenario, should this test ultimately be approved for broad use, is you would go to the doctor's office and receive your results by the time you meet with your provider," said senior author Christopher W. Woods, M.D., professor of medicine and associate director of Duke's genomics center.
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"We are working to develop a test that could be run in most clinical labs on existing equipment. We believe this could have a real impact on the appropriate use of antibiotics and guide the use of antiviral treatments in the future."