Identifying the origins of respiratory disease

A new method determines whether bacterial, viral or non-infectious illness is the cause, enabling appropriate treatment

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I have cold/flu-like symptoms, feel miserable and need to get to work/to the kids/ etc. -can I have an antibiotic prescription, Doc?

New research points to a straightforward way of putting a stop to this all-too-common scenario, and thus over-prescription of antibiotics and their misuse. Tsalik et al, report in the latest issue of Science Translational Medicine clear differences in the host gene expression profile associated with respiratory illness if it is induced by bacterial or viral infection, co-infection or of noninfectious etiology. A cohort of 273 patients and 44 healthy controls was used to develop classifiers, that were then validated using several publicly available datasets.

Although the approach uses peripheral blood, which is easy to access, as starting material, it still needs to be developed into an economic and sufficiently quick platform to be usable in daily clinical practice. Nevertheless, it is a promising new avenue to ultimately prevent antibiotic abuse. Abuse is problematic not only because of resistance, but also because of the dramatic ways it alters host flora.... but that is another topic of discussion.

Nonia Pariente

Chief Editor, Nature Microbiology

I come from a mid-sized city on the northwestern coast of Spain. My interest in science initially took me to Madrid, where I finished university and received a PhD in molecular biology. In Madrid, I studied RNA virus evolution and new antiviral strategies with Esteban Domingo. I then moved to UCLA, where I focused on developing lentiviral vectors for gene therapy in Irvin Chen’s laboratory. In 2007, I made the plunge from bench to desk and joined the EMBO Reports editorial team as Reviews Editor, becoming Scientific Editor two years later and Senior Editor in 2012. At EMBO Reports, I was responsible for microbiology and immunology, among other areas, and spent many years expanding my understanding and love for all things microbial. In the summer of 2015, I joined the Nature Microbiology editorial launch team, handling all things related to virology and mycology (and for a brief while parasitology) and -after a couple of stints covering microbiology at Nature- I became the Chief Editor of Nature Microbiology in 2019. I look forward to interacting with the community and providing a venue to publish the most important advances in the field.