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Blood Test Narrows Down Need for Antibiotics
Date:9/8/2009

Could lead to better treatment decisions for respiratory infections, experts say

TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A simple blood test may be able to help doctors determine which patients need antibiotics and which do not.

A new study published in the Sept. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that use of the test resulted in less antibiotic use.

If the protocol winds up in widespread use, it could significantly cut down on side effects associated with antibiotic use, not to mention slowing the spread of "killer" bacteria which become stubbornly resistant to these medications.

"It certainly holds a lot of promise," said Dr. Donald M. Yealy, co-author of an editorial accompanying the study and chair of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. "We need a way to make a better determination of need."

Overzealous use of antibiotics is commonly acknowledged as the main factor driving microbial resistance worldwide.

"What's not disputed is that antibiotics have changed health," Yealy said. "But there's also no doubt that they're currently often overused."

"I think this is very exciting," said Dr. Ann Falsey, a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center who specializes in infectious disease. "There's been a great deal of antibiotic overuse, with a great number of adverse effects both to patients individually and to the global flora becoming more resistant. This is one tool that can help clinicians make better decisions."

According to background information in the article, in the northwestern hemisphere antibiotics are most often prescribed for lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs). LRTIs can mean anything from bronchitis, which is likely to go away on its own, to community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), which can be life-threatening.

Up to three-quarters of LRTI patients are treated with antibiotics,
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