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The Right use of Antibiotics

There has been a lot of concern in recent months about the over use of antibiotics.

These medicines are excellent in that they kill bacteria which can cause many of the common problems we encounter such as strep throat, infected cuts and urinary tract infections. Antibiotics are very powerful and come in many different forms for different types of bacteria.

However, they do not work with viruses. Viruses are involved in health problems such as the common cold and flu.

Until now there has been some overlap because identifying certain conditions, such as whether a sore throat or ear infection has been caused by bacteria or a virus, can be difficult. Experts have warned against the overuse of antibiotics because natural resistance and adaptation is building up making them less effective.

However, this week some good news has been announced showing that a simple blood test will be able to help doctors identify whether a problem is caused by bacteria or a virus.

In collaboration with a company called MeMed, scientists in Israel have been working on ways to analyse blood samples quickly and easily.

In a test that involved 300 patients, they found they could definitely detect whether an infection was virus or bacteria based. The detection is based on the fact that bacteria and viruses trigger different protein pathways once they have infected a body.

One of the lead scientists in the trial, Dr Eran Eden of MeMed, said the test was accurate. “For most patients, you can tell whether the infection was caused by bacteria or a virus within two hours,” he said.

This means that doctors will be able to test a patient in just two hours to ensure antibiotics are only given in cases where they are really appropriate and effective. This will also help patients who have been reluctant to take antibiotics, thinking they “just have a bad cold” or similar when in fact there is a serious infection causing the problem.

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