WEDNESDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- An experimental test could help doctors catch a deadly type of fungal infection in the blood within a few hours, rather than the few days it currently takes, a new study suggests.
The test, which is not yet on the market, looks for Candida infection in the blood. The fungus is best known for causing common vaginal yeast infections, but when it gets into the bloodstream it can cause serious infections of organs and tissue throughout the body.
Candida blood infections -- known as candidemia -- are very rare in healthy people, but they are the fourth most common type of blood infection among U.S. hospital patients, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The infection is typically transmitted through contaminated catheters, and seen in seriously ill patients -- such as those in the intensive care unit, or with weakened immune systems.
The symptoms of candidemia are vague, and include fever and chills, so doctors use blood cultures to diagnose it. That means putting a blood sample in a special broth that feeds the yeast organism until it grows enough to be detected.
But Candida "is a slow grower," and it takes a few days to get blood culture results back, said Thomas Lowery of T2 Biosystems, the Lexington, Mass.-based company developing the new test.
By that time, it may be too late for the patient. About 40 percent of people with Candida blood infections die, and delayed diagnosis bears part of the blame, Lowery and his colleagues write in the April 24 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Getting a precise diagnosis is vital, Lowery said, both to confirm that it's Candida, and to pinpoint which type it is. "You need to know the specific Candida so you can use the right antifungal drug," he said.
In the new study, Lowery'
All rights reserved