The common cold sends more people to the doctor
than any other illness. Some patients need antibiotics, but it can be hard to decide
which ones. That all may be about to change. I’m Gabe Garza with your latest health news.
Researchers at Duke Health are refining a test that can distinguish between a cold caused
by a virus and a cold caused by bacteria. Colds are typically caused by viruses, for
which antibiotics are not effective. Taking antibiotics when they’re not necessary increases
the potential for negative side effects and antibiotic resistance. For these tests researchers
looked at patterns they call gene signatures, which can be obtained from blood samples.
These patterns identify which genes are turned “on” or “off,” an indication of whether a
patient is fighting a virus or a bacteria. So far, the test has been 87 percent accurate
in identifying whether a patient’s cold was caused by a virus or bacteria. The next step
for researchers now is refining the test to get results within one hour.