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Blood Test Could Help Prevent Antibiotic Resistance

A picture of vials of blood for testing.

Doctors may soon be able to conduct a blood test to determine if a patient needs an antibiotic. 

Researchers at Duke Health have developed a process that identifies markers in the blood of patients with respiratory complaints. They show the difference between a viral infection and one that's caused by bacteria.

"Even though about three-quarters of these sorts of infections are viral and don't need antibiotics, the majority of those patients end up leaving with an antibiotic," says Ephraim Tsalik , an assistant professor of medicine at Duke University and the Durham VA Medical Center who is working on the project. "That has health consequences for that individual patient and also for the public health."

Tsalik says overuse of antibiotics results in resistance and the rise of super-bugs.  He says the test takes 10-12 hours.  The goal is to get it done in an hour or less to make it practical for clinical use.

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