British scientists have developed a new rapid test for pneumonia and other respiratory infections, which would reduce the need for antibiotics.
Scientists have developed a new rapid test for pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
The test means a bacterial chest infection can be accurately diagnosed within six hours rather than two to three days.
Scientists at the Quadram Institute and the University of East Anglia (UEA), writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, said their test would help reduce the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics.
They said lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, account for around three million deaths worldwide each year.
Currently, diagnosing a bacterial lower respiratory infection can be difficult and relies on growing bacteria from patient samples over a two-to-three-day period.
During this time, patients can sometimes be given antibiotics, which will not work if the infection is caused by a virus rather than bacteria.
Over-use of antibiotics is leading to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a growing worldwide problem that occurs when bugs develop resistance to key drugs.
The new test helps reduce this risk and also lets scientists work out which drugs may work.
Dr Justin O'Grady, a group leader at the Quadram Institute and associate professor at UEA, said the new test "has the promise to revolutionise the diagnosis of infectious diseases" and was both rapid and affordable.
Themoula Charalampous, a researcher on the study, said the test removes human genetic material - a barrier in previous tests.
She said: "Respiratory samples are difficult to work with because they are mainly comprised of human genetic material.
"Removing this makes detecting the pathogens easier and reduces the sequencing cost and time."
The test is now forming part of a larger clinical trial for the diagnosis of hospital-acquired pneumonia.
Funding for the study came from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research.