Researchers identified 11 genetic markers in the blood that correctly distinguished between viral and bacterial infections in order to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics help us fight bacterial infections but are not effective and should not be used to treat viruses. "It is extremely difficult to interpret what is causing a respiratory tract infection, especially in very ill patients who come to the hospital with a high fever, cough, shortness of breath and other concerning symptoms," said Ann R Falsey, professor at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in the US.
Excessive use of antibiotics has made once easily treatable bacterial infections more difficult and often impossible to cure because bacteria evolve rapidly to evade antibiotics, leading to drug resistance.
The study published in the journal Scientific Reports is conducted on 94 adults hospitalised with lower respiratory tract infections. Under the study, they gathered their clinical data, took blood from each patient, and conducted a battery of microbiologic tests to determine which individuals had a bacterial infection and which had a nonbacterial or viral infection.
After that team used complex genetic and statistical analysis to pinpoint markers in the blood that correctly classified the bacteria infected patients 80 to 90 per cent of the time.
Our genes react differently to a virus than they do to bacteria," said Thomas J Mariani, professor at URMC."Rather than trying to detect the specific organism that is making an individual sick, we are using genetic data to help us determine what is affecting the patient and when an antibiotic is appropriate or not," Mariani said.