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Health Team

Duke using new test to detect bacterial infections in 1 hour

Posted July 19

It often takes days for doctors to determine whether a patient’s illness is caused by a bacterial infection or something else, but one test now helps them have an answer within an hour.

When an upper respiratory bacterial infection gets out of hand, it can enter the blood stream and cause a life-threatening condition called sepsis.

The earlier a doctor can know whether or not a bacterial infection is the cause of illness, the sooner that patient can be appropriately treated.

In February, the FDA expended use of a VIDAS PCT test, developed by French-based company bioMerieux. Company pharmacist Chris Cook said the test measures the level of procalcitonin in the blood with fast results.

“With procalcitonin, they can determine whether the infection is bacterial or something else within an hour,” Cook said.

“Then, use that information from that test to determine which patients need to stay on antibiotics and which patients could safely come off antibiotics,” added Dr. Ephraim Tsalik with the Duke University School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

Tsalik said the new test is an important step in providing more effective patient care, as well as reducing antibiotic resistance.
For patients who develop sepsis, confirming the nature of the illness helps doctors target the treatment and improve survival.

“We also know that treating patients with antibiotics who don’t need antibiotics can increase harms for that patient, as well as for the community itself,” Tsalik said.

Duke Regional Hospital has been using the PCT test, and Duke plans to phase in use of the test in their other locations.

Cook said the test is being rapidly adopted by hospitals across the state.

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