Durham, North Carolina – Scientists at Duke University published in Science Translational Medicine the results from an investigation that could solve the problem of an unnecessary use of antibiotics. The research found genetic differences in how the body reacts to viral and bacterial infections. Knowing this, doctors could measure with a simple blood test, an infected person’s genetic reaction to a microbe.

Scientists analyzed blood samples from 273 emergency room patients with respiratory problems who had visited emergency departments at five hospitals. They compared the results to 44 healthy people and found that the “gene signature” blood test was 87% accurate at patients with flu viruses, rhinovirus, several types of strep bacteria and other common infections. The test also indicated when no infection was present. These results, according to experts could reduce antibiotic use by 40 to 50%.

A team of scientists is developing a blood test that can show the efficacy of antibiotics. Credit: Life Hacker

“Antibiotics treat bacteria, but they do not treat viruses. That’s why distinguishing between these various causes of illness is very important to get the right treatment to the right patient, and to offer a prognosis for how the patient is likely to do,” Dr. Ephraim Tsalik, an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, told HealthDay.

According to the American College of Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 50% of antibiotic prescriptions for respiratory infections may be unnecessary. This test might help doctors make decisions about antibiotic use.

The unnecessary use of antibiotics or its overuse could lead to negative consequences. The more antibiotics someone takes, especially if they are not needed, expose people to other effects on their overall health and also puts them at higher risk of developing resistance to infections later on.

According to a report released last year by the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance commissioned by the U.K., drug-resistant infections are expected to cause 10 million extra deaths each year and use up to $100 trillion in health care costs by 2050.

The test currently takes up to 10 hours, but the team is working in developing a 1-hour test that could be used by doctors.

“We are working diligently to translate the signatures we found to make them available in an hour or less using a simple approach that can be done at the patient’s bedside or in an office-based lab,” the team declared.

Source: Science Mag