Duke University researchers are working on an intriguing idea—a blood test to determine whether a respiratory infection is caused by a virus or bacteria.

If it is developed, the test could make prescribing treatment easier and more accurate. Nearly three-fourths of patients with acute respiratory illnesses are prescribed antibiotics even though their infections are usually viral, studies have found. There is no treatment for most viruses.

Antibiotics kill many of the body’s good bacteria and can cause side effects such as gastrointestinal problems. Overuse of antibiotics contributes to the growing global public-health problem of antibiotic-resistant infections as the drugs become less effective.

Like many family physicians, Theodore Ganiats often sees congested, coughing, aching, feverish patients who are desperate for an antibiotic to relieve their ills. The problem is, he can’t usually confirm their respiratory infections are bacterial. Often, they are viral.

Virus or bacteria New tests may identify what's creating your infection“It’s often hard to get a person who doesn’t need an antibiotic to accept that,” said Dr. Ganiats, a family physician and professor at the University of Miami, in Florida. “A test to be able to know when an antibiotic is needed would be tremendously helpful.”

In research published previous month, the Duke University experts said their blood evaluation can identify whether a respiratory disease is the effect of a virus or bacteria. “This consists of from a runny nose all of the real way right down to pneumonia,” stated Ephraim Tsalik, an associate professor of treatments at Duke University INFIRMARY and the Durham VA INFIRMARY and lead writer of the study.

The test currently is available only as a comprehensive research tool with an eight- to 10-hour turnaround time. The researchers are exploring development opportunities including collaborating with two biotechnology companies hoping of creating a one-hour blood test that can be utilised clinically. Such a evaluation is at least 2-3 years aside and would require Foodstuff and Drug Administration acceptance, Dr. Tsalik said.