New blood test vital to antibiotic use

could prevent overprescribing

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by Michele McCormack

DURHAM, NC-An important new test may cut down on unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions and get the drug to the patients who really need it.

It's a new blood test that can detect whether the infection is bacterial or viral.

The two kinds of illnesses are hard to distinguish and antibiotics only work with bacterial infections.

They are not effective with viral illnesses like a cold.

"This particular test identifies how the body's white blood cells responds to infection and actually looks for genes that are relatively specific to viral infection," says Dr. Aimee K. Zaas of  Duke Medicine.

Using antibiotics when you don't need them is a big problem because the bacteria builds up a resistance to the drug.

The CDC says 23,000 Americans died from resistant bacterial infections last year.

The Duke blood test still has to undergo more study and researchers want to make it faster.

Right now it takes 12 hours to get results.

Doctors say it needs to be under an hour for it to be useful.

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