Antimicrobial resistance has reached an alarming stage but can it be contained? Vietnam based analysts have found a new way to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance by using bacterial infection detecting marker — the C-reactive protein — via CRP test that can distinguish between a viral and bacterial infection. This will help in limiting the use of antibiotics in case of viral infection in the patients suffering from acute respiratory infections (ARIs) also referred as common cold.

Researchers from the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam proved as to how the use of a simple blood test can reduce the antibiotic misuse in case of respiratory infections. The team of researchers analyzed more than 2,000 patients from 10 primary healthcare centers in Vietnam. Half of the patients received CRP testing procedure while rest of them were routinely treated by giving antibiotics.

The results showed that C-reactive protein point-of-care testing reduced antibiotic use for non-severe acute respiratory tract infection without compromising patients’ recovery. The results were published in The Lancet Global Health. The funding for the initiative was provided by the Wellcome Trust, UK, and Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership, USA.

According to the University of Oxford, Professor Nguyen Van Kinh, who is the investigator and director of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said, “With this easy-to-use tool, primary healthcare providers can safely limit the unnecessary antibiotic use for viral respiratory infections. The study provides important evidence for simple solutions in antibiotic stewardship programmes.”

However, he also mentioned that for the large scale implementation of such an approach, further studies assessing cost-effectiveness of this intervention are necessarily required.

Although this study is one of its kind in determining the infection status of children in a resource constraint setting but it showed similar results as the analysis done by other trials including CRP-testing. A study on the same lines published in Cochrane in 2014 showed similar positive results of using point-of-care CRP tests to reduce the use of antibiotics in ARIs in general practice.

C-reactive protein (CRP) Test is a common diagnostic test that is performed by taking blood sample of patients to ensure an infection. CRP is produced by the liver in the body in response to the inflammatory cytokines released in the body upon infection, inflammation or trauma. Low levels of CRP in the body directs towards a viral infection which does not require any antibiotic treatment.

Usually in the absence of exact knowledge about the nature of infection, antibiotics are prescribed to the patients suffering from acute-respiratory infection. This practice directly contributes to the increased burden of the antimicrobial resistance.

Is CRP-Biomarker An Effective Tool For Minimizing Antibiotic Resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance shown by a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was previously effective for treatment of infections caused by it, according to World Health Organization, WHO.

According to an independent analysis published in The Lancet, despite the fact that CRP testing approach can effectively lessen the misuse of antibiotics to a great extent in case of common colds, there are certain limitations with the procedure. But with the cut off values adjusted properly and the correct optimization of algorithm, this CRP can serve as an effective tool for minimizing antimicrobial resistance.

Data sets from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight the alarming status of antimicrobial resistance by stating that at least two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and more than 23,000 people die each year as a result of such infections every year.

Healthcare professionals and government authorities from all around the world are determined in controlling the shocking increase in the incidences of anti-microbial resistance. According to the estimates from the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, UK, more than 10 million deaths are due every year by 2050 costing up to £66 trillion. These horrifying stats encourage every little constructive move, like CRP-testing, taken in direction of eradicating this global havoc.