Researchers from the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Vietnam have shown that using a rapid (5-minute) test can reduce antibiotic misuse for respiratory infections. Cutting the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions is a key way to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections.
The rapid tests detect C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of infections caused by bacteria, in patients’ blood. A low level of CRP is suggestive of viral infection and therefore antibiotic treatment is not required.
The study team made the tests available at 10 primary healthcare centres in and around Hanoi, Vietnam, and recorded antibiotic use for 2000 patients who randomly were or were not tested for CRP. The results showed a significant reduction of antibiotic use in adults and children while clinical recovery was the same. This trial was the first to investigate this in a resource-constrained setting and showed similar results to trials in Europe. This was also the first trial to assess CRP tests for children.