Antibiotic resistance is a growing global dilemma. Specialists say doctors typically send their patients home with prescriptions for antibiotics due to the fact that they can not verify the origin of the ailments.
Antibiotics are overprescribed and becoming less and less effective. Image from Rotenberg.
More than half of children who visit the doctor for a sore throat, ear infection, bronchitis or other respiratory illness leave with a prescription for antibiotics, despite the fact that the bulk of those infections — over 70% — prove to be caused by viruses that antibiotics can’t kill.
Students at Duke University are attempting to assist doctors in finding a quicker way to pinpoint the cause behind their patients’ illnesses.
Kelsey Sumner, a senior at Duke University mentioned that the goal is to better verify if and when to administer antibiotics in order to stem the increase of drug-resistant superbugs.
For 10 weeks over the past summer, Sumner and fellow Duke student Christopher Hong teamed up with researchers at Duke Medicine to locate blood markers that could be used to tell whether what’s making someone sick could be a bacteria, or a virus.
Prescribing antibiotics when they aren’t necessary may make different infections more difficult to treat.
That’s because antibiotics wipe out susceptible bacteria, however some bacteria that are naturally resistant to the medication survive, which permits them to multiply without other bacteria to keep them under control.
With help from Sumner and Hong, the team has identified variations in patient’s’ blood-work that they hope may eventually be detected within a few hours, in contrast to current tests that can take days.
They targeted the genetic signature generated by small snippets of genetic material referred to as microRNAs, or miRNAs, that play a role in controlling the activity of different genes inside the cell.
Using blood samples from 31 individuals, 10 with bacterial pneumonia and 21 with flu virus, they used a method referred to as RNA sequencing to check miRNA levels in bacterial versus viral infections.
So far, the researchers have identified various snippets of miRNA that differ between bacterial and viral infections, and may be utilized to discriminate between the two.
Sumner and Hong were among 40 students nominated for a summer research program at Duke referred to as Data+. They presented their work at the Data+ Final Symposium on July 23 in Gross Hall.