Virus or Bacteria?

If you thought quickly determining whether a patient is suffering from a viral or a bacterial infection should be straightforward and easy, you would be wrong. The difficulty in answering this seemingly simple question is what has contributed so heavily to our current war against antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Luckily for all of us, researchers at Duke University are on it. According to a new study, taking a molecular snapshot of gene activity – when infected with a virus, your body activates a specific set of genes, which are entirely different from the set activated to fight a bacterial infection. The entire process currently takes 12 hours, a number which the researchers are hoping to slash to near-instant. The value in immediately determining something as simple as what kingdom the infectious agent belongs to would be a boon in fighting everything from over prescription of antibiotics to emergent pandemics.

Read more on viral signatures here.

(image: Thomas Splettstoesser)