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How RNA Could Reduce Need For Spinal Taps And Blood Samples For Infants With Fevers

NIH Image Gallery / Flickr

NIH Image Gallery / Flickr

A new method to detect bacterial infections in infant babies saves not only time, but the need for antibiotics and hospitalization.

UC Davis Professor Nathan Kuppermann talks Monday about how looking at ribonucleic acid (RNA) could replace spinal taps and blood samples.

Culturing is when you try to grow bacteria in order to try to identify it. Blood samples are taken to try to culture the bacterial infection if the infant has one. The process may take 40-48 hours, however.

Blood samples may pick up different contaminants during the process, so the baby might appear to have an infection when they actually don't.

That is where RNA comes in. RNA works by creating a transcript of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that expresses itself differently when it fights a bacterial infection compared to a viral infection.

"You only need a small sample of blood to look at RNA and the turnaround phase could be done within hours – even quicker," Kuppermann says.

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