An Indian-American professor at Stanford University and his team have developed a diagnostic test by which scientists can separate bacterial infections from those caused by a virus with about 90 percent accuracy, Stanford University announced recently. The test meets standards set by the World Health Organization.
The patent has been applied for the test which is described in a paper published Dec. 20 in Cell Reports Medicine.
The study was led by Purvesh Khatri, associate professor of medicine and biomedical data science, and the senior author of the paper, notes Stanford on its news site Dec. 21, 2022.
In developing countries as well as in the United States, a significant percentage of antibiotic prescriptions end up being given for viral infections, an estimated 70 to 80 percent in India, and 30-50 percent in the U.S., the study notes.
The Khatri-led research used a new gene expression-based test developed that could allow doctors around the world to quickly and accurately distinguish between bacterial and viral infections, thereby cutting down on antibiotic overuse, says an article on Stanford website December 21, 2022. The test is based on how the patient’s immune system responds to an infection, it adds.
“Antimicrobial resistance is continuously rising, so there has been a lot of effort to reduce inappropriate antibiotic usage,” Khatri is quoted saying in the Stanford news website. “Accurately diagnosing whether a patient has a bacterial or viral infection is one of the biggest global health challenges,” Khatri added.
“Epidemiologically, bacterial infections in developed countries are usually from bacteria that replicate outside the human cell,” Khatri said. These extracellular bacteria include E. coli and those that cause strep throat. In developing countries, common bacterial infections like typhus and tuberculosis are caused by intracellular bacteria, which replicate inside human cells, as do n
To develop a diagnostic test that can separate the extracellular bacteria from the intracellular bacteria, Khatri’s team used publicly available gene expression data from 35 countries, which amounted to a diverse population of 4,754 samples , thus representing the real world more closely.
Khatri hopes the new diagnostic test can eventually be translated into a point-of-care test and adopted by doctors in both developed and developing countries, as it requires only a blood sample and can be performed in 30 to 45 minutes. His team has applied for a patent on the test, the Stanford article said.
The study was funded by a number of governmental and non-governmental institutions including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the Department of Defense, etc.