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Thursday, July 14, 2016

A blood test that significantly strengthen the battle against resistance

Contributed by: Siddarth David & Dr. Tamhankar

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a blood test that could identify if a infection is caused by bacteria or virus in 4-6 hours, greatly improving the diagnosis and thus protocols to be followed in treatment. The test which looks at just seven genes to determine the micro-organism responsible for the infection was tested among school children in Nepal with promising results.

The findings published in Science Translational Medicine, have drastically reduced the time taken for blood tests, which makes it impossible to determine the microbe before starting the drug treatment. To identify the microbe type, the test uses  the gene expressions information that the body extracts from a particular gene to use it to direct protein formation that responds to external agents. The seven-gene test is a vast improvement over earlier tests that look at the activity of hundreds of genes. The researchers are still working to conduct more tests and devise ways of making it cheaper and commercially viable.

Given that a considerable number of prescriptions for antibiotics are often given for viral infections, the creation of such quick tests is a boon. It can help reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics and thus its consumption and eventually reduce antibiotic resistance.  This would be an additional tool in the battle against antibiotic resistance.