Germ detectors: Unmasking our microbial foes

日期:2017-06-14 08:00:20 作者:溥焊 阅读:

By Debora MacKenzie Editorial: “Medicine should embrace diagnostic technology“ EVAN FRUSTAGLIO was a healthy 13-year-old when he developed a sore throat and fever one Friday. By Sunday his symptoms were worse, so his parents took him to a walk-in clinic. The doctor didn’t prescribe any medications. On Monday Evan collapsed in his father’s arms. He never regained consciousness. It turned out he had swine flu, which was widespread at the time. The drug Tamiflu might well have saved him. This case was not a one-off. Every day millions of people go to clinics and hospitals seeking treatment for some kind of infectious disease. Most often these are respiratory infections, and their symptoms can be identical whatever bacterium or virus is to blame. Usually the best doctors can do is make an educated guess about which bug is responsible. In many cases it doesn’t actually matter if they get it wrong, because our immune systems will kill off the offending germ. But it can matter a lot. Not only are life-threatening infections sometimes missed, but even when it is clear that someone’s life is in danger, it can take days or even weeks to identify the cause. The delay means that a person might not get treatment that could have saved them. For example, it is thought that many of the 250,000 people who die of blood poisoning in the US each year could be saved if the bacterium responsible was identified and appropriate treatment given early. On the other hand, giving antibiotics encourages antibiotic-resistant superbugs to emerge – and thus harms people indirectly. It doesn’t have to be this way,