Is it possible to predict the onset of infectious diseases? Israeli researchers set out to answer this question and believe that the answer is, in many cases, yes.
Can doctors predict the onset of infectious diseases?
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have studied how different kinds of infectious disease causing agents enter into our bodies and whether or not they end up causing diseases. Their hypothesis was that medical professionals can tell whether bacteria will end up causing disease later within two days of the bacteria entering the system.
What science already knew is that when bacteria enters a person’s body, the person may get sick, his immune system may kill off the bacteria, or the germs may lay dormant in the body only to spring out later at some point into a full-fledged disease. These researchers wanted to pinpoint how we can determine how each patient will respond immediately, even though we would only normally see the results at a later point in time. The team was supervised by Dr. Roi Avraham from the Institute’s Department of Biological Regulation. They tested out their theory by documenting how genes reacted to the meeting of immune system cells and bacteria from salmonella. They were able to do these tests outside of the human body, using blood samples from patients.
When they did this, they found that the genes reacted in different ways, and that the changes indicated how the body would react to the invasion – if it became sick, if it fought off the bacteria, or if the bacteria lay inside, not causing any obvious symptoms.
They then developed an algorithm that can test a person’s genes to see whether that person’s immune system will fight off infectious diseases. They can test this from a standard blood test. Dr. Noa Bassel Ben Moshe, who co-led the research, said “The algorithm we developed cannot only define the ensemble of immune cells that take part in the response, it can reveal their activity levels and thus the potential strength of the immune response.”
The researchers did not notice differences between particular groups, rather within groups.
How this can help fight infectious diseases
One of the major consequences of this type of information is the ability to determine the onset of tuberculosis, which can lay low in a healthy person’s body undetected for many years. The researchers tested their data using blood samples from healthy people and TB carriers and were able to determine who would develop the disease later on.
While TB has been mostly eradicated, it can be deadly when a patient comes down with it. Although antibiotics has been a breakthrough in treating the disease, we’re in a new era of resistance to antibiotics, which makes it tricky to treat extant cases. Dr. Avraham is hopeful that his team’s findings will help treat TB and other deadly infectious diseases. If doctors can find them earlier, before they cause illness and become a massive opponent, they will hopefully be able to treat them more quickly and more efficiently.
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