Ginsburg ’78 Develops New Genetic Test for Infections

Dr. Geoffrey Ginsburg ’78 of Duke University and his colleagues have developed an experimental genetic test that can detect common infections before people know they are sick, according to an article in USA Today.

The test can distinguish between bacterial and viral illnesses, which may help physicians determine when they first see a patient whether giving antibiotics to a person will be helpful.

Unlike existing diagnostic tests, which typically detect either the germ itself or antibodies, the new approach detects the activation of genes that govern an immune response. It requires no more than a finger-prick of blood.

USA Today quoted Ginsburg as saying, “This is the first major step in using a person’s individual response to a viral or bacterial infection to lead to better diagnostics for infectious disease.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded the work in hopes of identifying soldiers who are sick before they infect others. Ultimately, says Ginsburg, the method could valuable in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices as an early indicator of infection.