A new test may help solve a large healthcare problem. A new test may help solve a large healthcare problem. New test may help solve a large healthcare problem. (Photo: Angellodeco /Shutterstock)

A new way to make antibiotics effective?

A quick and easy blood test could help doctors prescribe antibiotics more accurately.

The over-prescription of antibiotics is a concern of healthcare providers and policy makers worldwide. Antibiotics are powerful drugs, but they are only effective for treating bacterial infections. Bacterial and viral infections are often clinically indistinguishable, and current tests to determine the origin of an infection can take days, which means that often antibiotics are prescribed when they won’t help at all, and other times patients who need antibiotics don’t get them.

According to the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control, up to 50% of all antibiotic use is unnecessary. If antibiotics become ineffective, it will be far more difficult to fight infectious disease and manage infection complications. Now a new blood test could help mitigate that problem.

ImmunoXpert is a new in-vitro diagnostic blood test from Israeli medtech company MeMed. The test measures proprietary immune system biomarkers and pattern recognition algorithms to accurately distinguish between types of infection.

"For the past four years, our team has been collaborating with leading clinicians and scientists from around the world to develop and validate our novel approach for distinguishing between bacterial and viral infections," MeMed CEO Eran Eden said in a statement. "Our scientists have figured out how to decode the actions of the immune system doing what it does best – detecting and responding to the precise cause of infection."

An infographic created by the Centers for Disease Control showing how antibiotic resistance occurs and spreads.An infographic created by the Centers for Disease Control showing how antibiotic resistance occurs and spreads. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

In a clinical trial recently published in the journal PLOS One, a team of researchers from MeMed, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and several hospitals tested more than 1,000 patients. The study showed that the test could tell the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection – in as little as two hours.

“This is still a test in very early stages which, if it pans out, could be a remarkable improvement on how we are able to tell bacterial infections from viral infections,” Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy in Washington D.C., told From the Grapevine. Laxminarayan was a contributor to the paper “Antibiotic resistance – The Need for Global Solutions” published by the Lancet Infectious Diseases Commission.

ImmunoXpert is approved for clinical use and already in pilot distribution in the European Union and Israel. A broader commercial rollout is planned for later this year, while additional clinical trials in the U.S. using a specially designed point-of-care platform are also in development.

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