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Test May Help Doctors Distinguish Between Bacterial and Viral Infections in Kids

Fuse/Thinkstock(ST. LOUIS) -- For doctors, knowing which type of infection a child has -- either bacterial or viral -- will help to determine the best method of treatment for the little patient.  For example, viral infections in children do not respond to antibiotics, while bacterial infections do.  A new study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has found markers which differentiates between the two.  

Dr. Gregory Storch, a Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University explained that some children can develop serious bacterial infections which can become life threatening, but for many children the symptoms turn out to be the result of viral infections.
"It's very difficult for doctors to distinguish between viral infections which don't respond to antibiotics and bacterial infections that do," he said, explaining the study.
"By making use of the patterns of up and down regulation of genes we were able to accurately classify the infections as to whether they were caused by viruses or bacteria."

The researchers analyzed genes in white blood cells and found more than 90 percent accuracy, while the standard diagnostic test was correct only about 70 percent of the time.
Dr. Storch acknowledged that more research is needed on the subject and explained the aim of the study was to attempt to, "develop different and better ways of making that distinction so that ultimately, the targeting of antibiotics can be improved."  

The study's findings were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition.

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