Swiss team's blood Dx screens for bacteria or virus

Swiss scientists say they've successfully used a blood test to tell the difference between a bacterial and viral respiratory tract infection--a major weapon that can help stop antibiotic resistance.

The diagnostic approach could fill a major need, and without a lot of initial expense. Viruses don't respond to antibiotics, so the screening with a simple blood test would prevent patients with viruses from taking unnecessary antibiotic treatments, helping to reduce unnecessary health costs. And by cutting back on antibiotics that aren't needed, clinicians can curtail the overuse of antibiotics, which leads to bacterial strains that resist the treatment.

University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland, developed the approach, and Toronto's News FIX reports on the details. In a nutshell, they use a blood test that measures levels of procalcitonin, a blood protein the levels of which rise during big bacterial infections. Through a study of 243 patients with suspected lower respiratory infection, they were able to reduce the use of antibiotics based on the results of the procalcitonin test. And the recovery percentages remained high even for patients found to not need antibiotics based on the test.

Antibiotic resistance is increasingly drawing the attention of researchers and investors alike. Spanish startup STAT Diagnostica recently attracted more than $22 million in Series B venture financing to develop a speedy in vitro molecular diagnostic/immunoassay system, in part, for antibiotic resistance. Germany's Curetis AG drew in $16.2 million in funding earlier this year to advance its molecular diagnostic platform for antibiotic resistances through the U.S. regulatory process. And researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have repurposed a fast-acting diagnostic device for cancer to, in part, spot antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as MRSA.

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