Failure to diagnose or delay to treat a bacterial infection in a newborn can be medical malpractice. Doctors (and also parents) may sometimes be reluctant to submit a young infant to a lengthy and complicated process in order to find out if a fever may be caused by a bacterial infection. Thanks to new research this process may become much easier in the future.
Fever is usually one of the first symptom of a bacterial infection. However it can also be caused by other medical conditions. When a health care provider evaluates a young infant with fever and suspect an infection, there is no quick way to find out if the infant suffers from a bacterial infection. The actual method consists in isolating live bacteria from blood, urine or spinal fluid and grow a bacteria culture in a laboratory. This may require difficult and traumatizing medical procedures such as spinal tap. Additionally the infant may necessitate hospital admission and an antibiotic prescription until the results of the tests are available.
A recent study that was published on Aug. 23, 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that through advances in genetic sequencing technology it may soon be possible for doctors to diagnose bacterial infections in infants with fevers quickly and in a non invasive manner. More work is needed but in the future only a small blood sample may be enough to immediately determine if an infant suffers or not from a bacterial infection.
Read more in the Press Release from the National Institute of Health
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