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A new blood test could cut the number of antibiotics given in hospitals, it has been revealed.
The test, which would show how patients were responding to the drugs, would let doctors know when antibiotic use could be stopped.
After the test was trailed at a Paris hospital, the average number of days intensive care patients received antibiotics fell by a quarter.
The test, which costs £13 a time, measures levels of procalcitonin – with the amount of the hormone present in the body reflecting how the patient is responding to antibiotics.
The £13 test cost would be far cheaper than prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily, the team behind the research said.
At the Bichat-Claude-Bernard Hospital in Paris, 311 intensive care patients were tested for procalcitonin and 319 were treated as normal. The patients tested for procalcitonin had their antibiotic prescription adjusted.
The results, which were published in the Lancet medical journal, showed no difference in mortality rates, recurring infections or in the number of days that patients required a machine to help their breathing.
Copyright Press Association 2010