A recent study conducted by researchers at Imperial College London has found that analyzing gene activity in a blood sample can help determine the cause of a fever, whether it is due to a bacterial infection, a virus, or an inflammatory disease. This discovery could lead to faster diagnoses, appropriate treatment, and a reduction in unnecessary antibiotic use.
Currently, many children who are hospitalized with a fever do not receive a diagnosis, as current diagnostic tools that look for pathogens can be slow and unreliable. However, genetic tests that examine changes in gene expression in response to disease show promise in providing an alternative method of diagnosis.
The study involved analyzing gene expression in blood samples from 1212 children who had been diagnosed with one of 18 infectious or inflammatory diseases that cause fever. Using a machine learning model, the researchers identified 161 genes that correlate with diseases across six categories: bacterial infections, viral infections, inflammatory diseases, malaria, tuberculosis, or Kawasaki disease. The model was validated in a separate group of 411 children with fever and showed excellent accuracy.
The researchers believe that this finding could have significant implications for precision medicine in infectious and inflammatory diseases in children. By quickly identifying the cause of a fever, appropriate treatment can be administered, and unnecessary antibiotic use can be reduced, which is crucial in combating antibiotic resistance.
However, while this study is a step in the right direction, further validation in larger data sets is necessary before it can be used in clinical settings. The researchers are currently recruiting more patients and generating more data to expand the scope of the gene signature to cover a wider range of infectious and inflammatory conditions.
Overall, this study highlights the potential of genetic testing in improving the diagnosis and treatment of fevers in children. It offers hope for more accurate and efficient medical practices in the future, but further research is needed to fully establish its effectiveness.