Researchers and medical experts are ‘excited’ by new research which could potentially save thousands of lives lost to bacterial infections each year.
A team of researchers from all over the world have identified two new genes that are only switched on when a child is suffering from a bacterial infection, such as meningitis or sepsis.
Now, the team – based at Imperial College London – believe they can use this discovery to create a test that will lead to the diagnosis of these illnesses and infections in a matter of mere minutes.
Currently, there is no method of identifying the cause of some children’s fevers, which often leads to misdiagnosis and, in some cases, fatalities.
Lead researcher Professor Michael Levin explained: “Every year, many children are sent away from emergency departments or doctors’ surgery because the medical team thinks they have a viral infection, when in fact they are suffering from life-threatening bacterial infections, which are often diagnosed too late.”
Now, where a bacterial infection is driving the fever, a simple genetic test based on this new research could inform doctors.
Chief Executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, Vinny Smith, stated why this new development is so ‘exciting’.
“Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours, and can leave survivors with life-changing after-effects. Giving health professionals the tools to rapidly determine whether an infection is bacterial or viral will enable faster detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia,” he said.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the research was based on data gathered from children who entered hospitals in the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and the USA with fevers.