A blood-based gene expression signature of patient response to pathogens can be used to detect respiratory viral infections and sufficiently distinguish them from their non-viral counterparts in an ER setting, researchers from Duke University have shown in a proof-of-concept study published in Science Translational Medicine. The researchers suggested that their host response-based approach could help clinicians better identify viral infections, and therefore curb the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. “Viruses do not have one single conserved genetic sequence that you can target and detect all viruses, unlike bacteria, where we can detect ribosomal RNA sequences,” said UTMB’s Mike Loeffelholz, a pathologist and clinical microbiologist who was not involved in the work. “In order to broadly detect viruses, you have to have these massively multiplexed pathogen-specific assays. So if you can detect — instead of the actual viral pathogens — a host response signature ... it gives you a single test for many different kinds of viral infections.”