Current Weather
The Spy FM

Fast Tests Are Latest Weapons Against Infections

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
June 29, 2012

Show up at the emergency room or your doctor’s office with symptoms of a serious infection, and there’s a good chance you’ll get an antibiotic. You might even get a few.

But antibiotics don’t work on viruses. And a particular antibiotic may be suited for one kind of germ, but not another.

The problem for your doctor — and you — is that it can take days to grow enough of the germs afflicting you to identify them conclusively using traditional tests. And if you’re really sick, the doctor may try a bunch of antibiotics right away, just to be sure one of them starts getting you back on the road to health.

“We’ve been using agar plates, and we’ve been sort of in the dark ages,” says David Gilbert, chief of infectious diseases at Providence Portland Medical Center in Oregon. “We’re forced to guess what’s there.”

Faster, more specific tests would help. And the Food and Drug Administration has recently approved some. This week, while you might have been distracted by the Supreme Court, the agency cleared a test for a dozen bacteria that cause infections in the blood.

“Bloodstream infections are always treated with antimicrobial drugs, and it is essential to identify which antimicrobial drug is appropriate for a specific patient as quickly as possible,” FDA’s Alberto Gutierrez said in a statement. “This new test is an important tool that will help physicians treat patients quickly with the correct antibiotics.”

The test, made by Nanosphere, works in a few hours instead of days. It fingerprints the germs’ DNA and can even detect when the bugs carry genes that render them resistant to some antibiotics. The test costs less than $100.

The FDA gave the green light to another Nanosphere test for respiratory viruses last year. A company called Idaho Technology has a one-hour test for respiratory viruses, too.

These options, and others in the works, should be helpful, Gilbert tells Shots. Fast, specific results can help guide treatment and spare the use of antibiotics that wouldn’t work.

Overuse of antibiotics is one factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “We’re running out of antibiotics,” he says. “It’s very important that we preserve our current inventory of drugs.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

1PM to 2PM Seasonal Shows

Seasonal Shows

Listen Live Now!

2PM to 4PM The Sandbox

The Sandbox

View the program guide!

4PM to 5PM Weekend All Things Considered

Weekend All Things Considered

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center