Menu

A Blood Test To Determine When Antibiotics Are Warranted

Scientists can assay gene activity to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections.

Jul 7, 2016
Alison F. Takemura

Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus being ingested by neutrophilNIHScientists can distinguish between a viral and a bacterial infection by assaying just seven human genes, according to a study published this week (July 6) in Science Translational Medicine. A clinical test based on these findings would enable doctors to more appropriately prescribe antibiotics, which are ineffective against viruses.

This May, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that doctors prescribe antibiotics when they’re not needed in around 30 percent of cases examined. Overuse of these drugs may promote more widespread antibiotic resistance.

To address the problem, scientists at Stanford University looked at more than 1,000 patient blood samples to identify gene activation signatures associated with either bacterial or viral infections.

The researchers found they could distinguish these two classes of infections by analyzing the expression of seven genes alone. “The notion that there are just seven targets with really excellent accuracy was pretty shocking,” study coauthor Tim Sweeney told Time. The team was then able to validate this seven-gene assay with blood collected from 96 children with sepsis.

“Our test can very reliably rule out bacterial infection,” study coauthor Purvesh Khatri wrote in an email to The Scientist.

For example, if the prevalence of bacterial infection is 15 percent in a community, and 100 patients are tested, if they all test negative, then the test is almost totally accurate: 98 patients truly won’t have a bacterial infection, according to the team’s analysis.

The researchers are working to improve the approach so that it can be applied in the clinic.

“A lot of people said we need a test like this, and we hope our test, or one like it, will help to reduce the crazy overuse of antibiotics that is threatening not just medicine but whole parts of our society based on our inability to treat certain infections,” Sweeney told Time.

Sweeney and Khatri told The Scientist that the test could be particularly useful during the early stages of an infection—prior to life-threatening sepsis—when antibiotics can be safely avoided.

 

February 2019

Big Storms Brewing

Can forests weather more major hurricanes?

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Releases First FDA-Cleared Digital PCR System and Test for Monitoring Chronic Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Response
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb), a global leader of life science research and clinical diagnostic products, today announced that its QXDx AutoDG ddPCR System, which uses Bio-Rad’s Droplet Digital PCR technology, and the QXDx BCR-ABL %IS Kit are the industry’s first digital PCR products to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Used together, Bio-Rad’s system and kit can precisely and reproducibly monitor molecular response to treatment in patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Showcases New Automation Features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer at SLAS 2019
Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc. (NYSE: BIO and BIOb) today showcases new automation features of its ZE5 Cell Analyzer during the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening 2019 International Conference and Exhibition (SLAS) in Washington, D.C., February 2–6. These capabilities enable the ZE5 to be used for high-throughput flow cytometry in biomarker discovery and phenotypic screening.
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Andrew Alliance and Sartorius Collaborate to Provide Software-Connected Pipettes for Life Science Research
Researchers to benefit from an innovative software-connected pipetting system, bringing improved reproducibility and traceability of experiments to life-science laboratories.
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Life Sciences to Feature 3D Cell Culture Technologies at SLAS 2019
Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW) will showcase advanced 3D cell culture technologies and workflow solutions for spheroids, organoids, tissue models, and applications including ADME/toxicology at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference, Feb. 2-6 in Washington, D.C.