Researchers at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health in the UK are set to develop a new commercial blood test for better diagnosis of patients suspected to have meningitis, a form of brain infection.
The team has received £1.6m in funding from the Medical Research Council and Malta-based firm Fast Track Diagnostics to support the new project.
Meningitis can be a viral or bacterial infection and their differentiation is critical because the bacterial type requires immediate treatment. However, the existing lumbar puncture test is considered invasive and cannot be performed on patients who are seriously ill.
To address these concerns, the researchers created a laboratory test to analyse the body’s response to infection in the blood and distinguish between the two types. It is considered to be the first test to use a host transcriptional response for detecting the infection.
The new alliance will see the further development of a blood test for commercial use. The partners also intend to trial the new test across hospitals in the UK and Europe over the next three years.
Institute of Infection and Global Health researcher and project lead Dr Mike Griffiths said: “Due to a fear of ‘missing’ bacterial meningitis, doctors can end up giving unnecessary antibiotics to patients who are really suffering from viral meningitis.
“This test will help doctors to rule out bacterial meningitis more quickly, reducing unnecessary antibiotic treatment, shorten in-patient stay and reduce the burden on health care.”
The researchers hope that the test can also help in diagnosing other bacterial infections, including pneumonia and sepsis, in the future.