BGU RESEARCHER Daria Prilutsky.
(photo credit: Ben-Gurion University)
A Ben-Gurion University of the Negev discovery that can quickly and accurately
distinguish between bacterial and viral infections will be able to prevent the
drastic overuse of antibiotics and growing resistance of bacteria to the drugs,
which are not effective against viruses.
Resistant bacterial infections significantly reduced in hospitals
A multidisciplinary team, headed
by Prof. Robert Marks of the Beersheba university’s department of biotechnology
engineering and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN),
made the important discovery, which will enable better diagnostics in addition
to the reduction in improper use of antibiotics.
“A group at BGU has
shown it is possible to distinguish a patient’s infection as either viral or
bacterial by merely studying the glow produced by a sample of their blood,” he
This new test could affect healthcare and medications around the
world and reduce the constant need for developing new antibiotics.
present, patients with a sore throat and inflamed glands often pester their
doctors for antibiotics in the belief that it will automatically make them
better. Bacterial infection, usually with streptococcus, can cause complications
in patients and even lead to permanent damage to their heart
Currently, tests take one to two days, and aren’t always accurate
enough for a clearcut diagnosis. Many doctors give in, even though it is just as
likely, or even more likely, that a self-limiting viral infection is
responsible. Treating a viral infection with antibiotics merely increases the
body’s resistance to antibiotics.
The researchers’ article on the
breakthrough appeared in a recent issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry of
the American Chemical Society.
Team member and doctoral student Daria
Prilutsky undertook the project as part of her interdisciplinary technologies
fellowship from the Council for Higher Education’s powerful Planning and
“We discovered that phagocytic cells circulating in
our body inherit different pieces of information in different diseases and are
’pre-tuned for a future task.’ They therefore possess predictive value that can
be used as a sensitive marker to distinguish between various clinical states,”
Writing in the American Chemistry Society’s Journal of
, Prilutsky et al outlined the study they did of 69 patients
admitted to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba with various types of
Rather than looking at the infection, they looked at the
immune system’s response to the infection.
“Upon activation of
phagocytes, an increase in the consumption of molecular oxygen occurs, which
results in the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), a process
collectively called respiratory burst,” they wrote.
“When luminol is
added to the system, the ROS generation is accompanied by light emission
(chemiluminescence, CL). Thus, CL is a sensitive marker of the oxidative
potential of phagocytes, which can be recorded as a luminoldependent CL
Their study clearly indicated that phagocytes react differently
to viral and bacterial infections, and that CL can distinguish those
Using C4.5 decision tree data mining, the group was able to
achieve 88.9 percent prediction accuracy in blind cases.
“The approach of
inspecting whole-blood CL as a measure of respiratory burst, analysis of
kinetics, and classification of clinical groups using data mining algorithms
demonstrated a high predictive diagnostic value and may assist in proper
treatment modalities a very short time after admission of the patient to the
hospital,” they wrote.
Conducting multi-disciplinary research guided by
clear biotechnological goals, the NIBN was created with a mission to plant the
seeds that will lead to the growth of successful Israeli biotechnology
industries, especially in the Negev. Hosted within BGU, the NIBN is organized
along unique guidelines designed to encourage its members to cross the academic
barriers that, by tradition, have separated scientific disciplines and instead
engage in creative and ground-breaking biotechnological research.