Duke University researchers published an article titled A Host-Based RT-PCR Gene Expression Signature to Identify Acute Respiratory Viral Infection in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Sept. 18. The study determined that it may be possible to develop a blood test that will tell your physician if your illness is viral or bacterial. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. Those same antibiotics have no effect on viral infections.
Appropriate treatment for an infection is often key to the patient's recovery from an illness. For a physician, knowing the type of infection allows that to occur. The patient recovers sooner, with fewer complications and long term deficits.
The study looked at patients with induced and suspected influenza infections. The blood test looks at a number of genetic markers in the patient's antibodies, which differ depending on the type of illness. The test developed was able to determine a respiratory viral infection with success 87 to 100 percent of the time.
CBS News quotes the study's lead author, Dr. Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, director of Genomic Medicine and professor of medicine at Duke University School of Medicine, as saying
Current tests require knowledge of the pathogen to confirm infection, because they are strain-specific. But our test could be used right away when a new, unknown pathogen emerges.