Bacterial and viral infections can present with very similar symptoms. Unfortunately, they often require very different treatments. Robert Marks and his colleagues from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev have found a way to distinguish bacterial from viral infections. They used immune markers to do so.
When a person is infected, phagocytes, or polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) are activated. However, PMNs undergo changes depending on whether the infections they are fighting are viral or bacterial. These changes can be detected by chemiluminescence screening in much less time than it would take to culture the infection and observe it directly.
Thus far, the researchers have achieved an almost 90% success rate in classifying infections as of either viral or bacterial origin. They hope their work will lead to faster and more accurate treatments.