This is BIG news if I read it right. In test settings researchers claim they can distinguish between viral and bacterial infections in a human even before symptoms of the disease are noticeable to the patient. The reason the possibility of correct identification of disease is important is because more than half of antibiotic usage is for diseases where it has no effect, and is therefore worthless in the short run and destructive in the long run. The usage of antibiotics kills more than just the disease it is aimed at; it kills hundreds of the necessary species of bacteria living in humans that are important for their health. Those bacteria are natural to humans and have evolved with them for tens of thousands of years, and their destruction, especially in infancy, causes life-long diseases such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, skin rashes, and increased susceptibility to follow-on diseases. All of these and more, are “caused” by antibiotics. The decades-long usage of these powerful drugs that ended many plagues of deadly diseases has brought about unforeseen scourges of current diseases. For more see: Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser, where he explains in great detail how antibiotics have been overused and how this overuse has created many problems. A major problem is the frequent prescription for children of antibiotics that destroy their essential intestinal bacteria, but with this new laboratory test just announced it will be possible to eliminate doctors prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed.
Go to the research magazine – Cell – for the complete article, but here is the essence of the report:
MVS is a common transcriptional host response to respiratory viral infection
MVS could be used in clinics as a diagnostic and/or prognostic biomarker
IMS distinguishes influenza from other viral and bacterial infections
IMS correlates with infection symptomatology and vaccine response
Respiratory viral infections are a significant burden to healthcare worldwide. Many whole genome expression profiles have identified different respiratory viral infection signatures, but these have not translated to clinical practice. Here, we performed two integrated, multi-cohort analyses of publicly available transcriptional data of viral infections. First, we identified a common host signature across different respiratory viral infections that could distinguish (1) individuals with viral infections from healthy controls and from those with bacterial infections, and (2) symptomatic from asymptomatic subjects prior to symptom onset in challenge studies. Second, we identified an influenza-specific host response signature that (1) could distinguish influenza-infected samples from those with bacterial and other respiratory viral infections, (2) was a diagnostic and prognostic marker in influenza-pneumonia patients and influenza challenge studies, and (3) was predictive of response to influenza vaccine. Our results have applications in the diagnosis, prognosis, and identification of drug targets in viral infections.
If these tests can be designed to be completed quickly enough to be done in a doctor’s office, the total number of antibiotic prescriptions will drop to less than half of what they presently are, and everyone will be at less risk of disease.
Antibiotics may soon used only when shown by lab tests to be needed.