The researchers used blood samples from healthy people and "spiked" them with Candida yeast. They then analyzed the samples with the new test and with standard blood cultures. The two tests were in agreement on "positives" 98 percent of the time.
An expert not involved in the research said the test's sensitivity is "very, very good."
"This is preliminary, but the technology looks extremely promising," said Christine Ginocchio, chief of infectious disease diagnostics at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Lake Success, N.Y.
What's particularly "exciting" is that the technology could potentially be used to test for other pathogens that cause serious bloodstream infections, according to Ginocchio, who is also a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America's Diagnostics Task Force.
Ideally, Ginocchio explained, when doctors suspect a patient has a bloodstream infection, they would be able to take a blood sample, directly test it, then have a result in a few hours. The problem right now is that a blood sample would normally not contain enough of the culprit bug -- be it a fungus or bacterium -- to detect.
Plus, Ginocchio noted, the blood contains a lot of other genetic material that gets in the way of spotting that bit of foreign-invader DNA. That's why blood cultures are done.
The new test, which is based on so-called magnetic resonance technology, essentially removes the "noise" coming from other material in the blood sample, allowing it to zero in on the pathogen.
There is still more work to be done. "Now you'd like to see this tested in a larger, multicenter trial," Ginocchio said.
The process would also need to be automated, she noted, to be feasible for smaller community hospitals. T2 Biosystems' Lowery said the researchers are working on making the method "fully
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