Bacterial vs. Viral Respiratory Infections

Your fever and sore throat must be the result of a bacterium—previously your ticket for getting an antibiotic and relief. Not so fast, say most physicians. With the rapid rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, doctors aren’t eager to hand you a prescription anymore. 

Now a new test developed by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, may offer an accurate read on your respiratory bug. In a clinical trial of 300 patients with bacterial strep infections, flu viruses and rhinoviruses (the type that cause the common cold), a blood test was 87% effective in distinguishing the source.

The investigators used patients’ gene signatures, patterns showing which genes were turned on or off, to decipher whether a bacterium or virus was at large. The results were published in the January 20 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Source: Duke University press release