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New test tells if the fever is caused by bacterial or viral infections

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New test tells if the fever is caused by bacterial or viral infections

Fever in children is a pretty common and perhaps the one that scares the most parents. Fever may be a sign of infection (whose origin is not always found) or may tell that the first first tooth appear. However, in a child who has no other signs than fever is difficult to distinguish if the fever is caused by a bacterial infection that requires antibiotic treatment, or a viral infection that can go away and do not require antibiotic.

However, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, can find out if the fever is due to a bacterial or viral infection using a microarray technology. Microarray technology refers to the analysis of gene activity in a blood sample. What is worthy to note is that the study showed that the new analysis has an accuracy of 90% compared to standard test that has an accuracy of only 70%. Though other studies are needed to confirm this new test, this new finding demonstrates that through the analysis of gene activity, doctors can figure out the cause of fever and apply the correct treatment.

 viral infectionsSenior author Gregory Storch, MD, the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics and Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said it is quite common for a child to have fever without having other symptoms and that some of these children may have a life-threatening illness, but most children actually have viral infections. He emphasized that it is difficult to differentiate the two types of infection. Doctors usually are cautious and prescribe antibiotics to children who have fever without an apparent cause. However, antibiotic treatment has no effect if the infection is caused by viruses and in addition may lead to bacterial resistance.

Researchers conducted a study involving 30 children ages 2 months to 3 years who had fever over 100.4 ° F without other symptoms. Based on extensive genomic test,  the investigators knew that eight had bacterial infection and twenty-two had viral infections. Researchers wanted to see if the new test, called gene expression microarray, can tell whether children have a bacterial infection or a viral infection. Blood leukocytes are cells that defends the body against infections and testing is based on the fact that their immune response varies depending on the organism causing the infection: bacteria or virus. Indeed, the study demonstrated that the microarray technology distinguished between the two types of infection (bacterial or viral) and this differentiation is very useful for correct diagnosis and treatment.