Test identifies best treatment for respiratory tract infections

An EU-funded project has developed new tests to quickly determine whether a respiratory tract infection is viral or bacterial and whether it shows resistance to antibiotics, helping doctors prescribe the right treatment for patients while curbing the overuse of such life-saving drugs.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Bosnia and Herzegovina
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czechia
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


  Infocentre

Published: 23 June 2017  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Health & life sciencesCommunicable diseases  |  Drugs & drug processes
Innovation
Research policySeventh Framework Programme
SMEs
Success stories
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Belgium  |  France  |  Germany  |  Netherlands  |  Switzerland
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Test identifies best treatment for respiratory tract infections

Photo of 2 people sneezing
© djoronimo - fotolia.com

Acute respiratory tract infections — including potentially fatal pneumonia — are widespread around the world and often require urgent medical attention. But doctors are frequently at a loss when it comes to quickly determining appropriate treatment, especially in the early stages of such a sickness, due to uncertainty over its cause.

Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections and not against viruses. Prescribing antibiotics to patients without knowing whether they need them leads both to unnecessary suffering and unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. Furthermore, bacteria develop resistance to previously life-saving treatments, creating a serious healthcare issue.

That’s where the EU-funded C4L project comes in.

C4L has developed a panel of molecular diagnostic tests to pinpoint in a matter of hours whether a patient’s infection is viral or bacterial and provide physicians with a list of causative pathogens.

Previously, molecular tests were only able to identify one pathogen at a time within a timeframe of several hours, classically one to three. The new multiplex assay system with a microfluidic chip and a reader developed by the C4L project allows for the identification of multiple pathogens along with markers identifying any potential antibiotic resistance, informing doctors on their treatment decision.

The test results allow physicians to move forward with appropriate treatment without losing time and having to do much guesswork — potentially saving lives in the process.

“When it’s a viral infection, you can wait because normally you would cure yourself quite easily,” says C4L’s project coordinator Thierry Leclipteux of Belgian-based Coris BioConcept. “But when it’s a bacterial infection, it’s much more difficult. What is needed today in diagnostic labs, in hospitals, is to very quickly identify the origin of an infection.”

Single sample sheds light

Developed and commercialised by C4L project partner PathoFinder, a Dutch molecular diagnostics company, the multiplex diagnostic tests provide clinicians with a list of one or multiple pathogens present in a patient’s respiratory tract using a single sample.

The tests, already in use in several European labs, also provide data, or markers, on whether the bacteria found show resistance to antibiotics. This means that in the event of a bacterial infection, doctors “do very quickly have a choice for an antibiotic therapy that they know will work,” Leclipteux says.

The analysis allows doctors to avoid the use of antibiotics a patient may not respond to.

“If it doesn’t work, sometimes we have lost two to three days —and sometimes it’s too late,” Leclipteux said.

Innovative chip in progress

Separately but also as part of the C4L project, Leclipteux’s SME Coris BioConcept worked with a lab at IBM in Switzerland to develop a microfluidic chip for detecting respiratory pathogens.

The innovative idea envisions injecting the microfluidic chip — a plastic device containing tiny channels — with a solution containing DNA and RNA extracted from a patient sample and then carrying out a so-called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that would provide key insight into the patient’s condition. The turnaround time is about one hour.

Coris BioConcept is currently assessing whether to move forward with the tool considering various factors, including market competition.

Project details

  • Project acronym:C4L - Chips for Life
  • Participants: Belgium (Coordinator), Switzerland, France, Germany
  • Project Reference N° 278720
  • Total cost: € 4 023 201
  • EU contribution: € 2 876 300
  • Duration:January 2012 - June 2015

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