Simple Serological Pan Bacterial Diagnostic


Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest global health crises we are currently facing, and it is being accelerated by the overuse and misuse of antibiotics. There is a tendency, especially in pediatrics, to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections, or to withhold an antibiotic out of an abundance of caution. A contributing factor in antibiotic overuse is the lack of a simple diagnostic test to distinguish bacterial from viral infections. A major advance in stemming the antibiotic crisis would be to have a diagnostic that could readily distinguish between bacterial and viral infections on presentation with symptoms.


Researchers at the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University have developed a novel serological assay to distinguish bacterial infections from other pathogenic infections. Many different types of pathogens were screened using the immunosignature platform and a unique signature was identified to distinguish between positive and negative samples. Then the bacterial and viral samples were pooled to see if the test could be made more practical by reducing the number of peptides required for distinction. Two antibody-reactive peptides were identified as containing motifs that were common in bacterial proteomes. These peptides were used in a simple spot assay to test bacterial and viral sera samples and demonstrated preliminary distinction of the samples. These peptides could be used to clinically measure the antibody repertoire in a patient sample to distinguish bacterial from viral infections, and could be particularly valuable in pediatric medicine.


This novel assay enables clinicians to make informed decisions regarding therapy and antibiotic prescription which would go a long way in decreasing the unnecessary use of antibiotics and curbing the antibiotic crisis.


Potential Applications

• Pan-bacterial diagnostic assay

o  Particularly beneficial in pediatric medicine


Benefits and Advantages

• Simple and inexpensive assay

• Can utilize a single drop of blood or saliva

• High accuracy using only 2 peptides

• Misclassification rate of less than 20% for distinguishing bacterial vs viral infections - exceeds current biomarkers used in clinical settings

• Misclassification rate of less than 10% for distinguishing bacterial versus all other non-bacterial infections

• Enables more informed clinical decision making

• Detects even in the presence of other types of infection without performance deterioration


For more information about the inventor(s) and their research, please see
Dr. Johnston’s departmental webpage

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Stephen Johnston Lu Wang

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