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Blood test can rule out serious infections in children

GPs can quickly detect serious infections in children using a simple decision rule and a finger prick blood test, say researchers

GPs can quickly detect serious infections in children using a simple decision rule and a finger prick blood test, say researchers.

The team from the University of Leuven in Belgium, working with Ghent University and the University of Oxford, carried out a 1-year study involving more than 3,100 sick children in the Flanders region of Belgium. 


Although results showed the test could quickly detect serious infection, researchers
stressed it ‘cannot replace a GP’. Picture: IStock

Symptoms of serious infections, such as meningitis and pneumonia, can resemble common viral infections in the early stages.

‘As a result, serious infections tend to stay off the general practitioner’s radar for too long,’ said lead study author Dr Jan Verbakel. ‘We asked ourselves how rapid diagnostic tests might help solve this problem.’ 

The researchers used C-reactive protein (CRP) tests to identify infection. They said 5mg of CRP per litre of blood was a good threshold value to rule out serious infections. 

However, they stressed the test ‘cannot replace a GP’ and should only be carried out after the GP has performed a clinical evaluation of the patient’s symptoms and vital functions. 

The study showed that, using this procedure, all serious infections were detected during the first visit to the GP. This means seriously ill children do not have to wait for a hospital diagnosis – a delay that could prove fatal.


Verbakel J, Lemiengre M, De Burghgraeve T et al (2016) Should all acutely ill children in primary care be tested with point-of-care CRP: a cluster randomised trial. BMC Medicine. doi: 10.1186/s12916-016-0679-2

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