An end to antibiotics overuse

Increasing bacterial resistance could be minimized with ‘revolutionary’ new BGU test.

BGU RESEARCHER Daria Prilutsky (photo credit: Ben-Gurion University)
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.
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.
Resistant bacterial infections significantly reduced in hospitals
“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 said.
This new test could affect healthcare and medications around the world and reduce the constant need for developing new antibiotics.
At 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 valves.
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 Budgeting Committee.
“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,” Prilutsky added.
Writing in the American Chemistry Society’s Journal of Analytical Chemistry, Prilutsky et al outlined the study they did of 69 patients admitted to Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba with various types of infections.
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 (LCL).”
Their study clearly indicated that phagocytes react differently to viral and bacterial infections, and that CL can distinguish those reactions.
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.