Bacterial Versus Viral Infections: How Your Doctor Can Detect And Verify The Difference

There are two ways the body becomes very sick after contact with an infected surface or an infected person. These two ways are viral and bacterial infections. In most instances, your doctor can tell the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection just by your list of symptoms. However, there are times when it may be a little more difficult to figure out which is which. For that, your doctor only needs to run a single blood test. Your doctor will use that blood test's results to tell the difference between a viral and bacterial infection. Here is more information on that test, how it works, and what course of treatment your doctor will decide to prescribe next. 

The Procalcitonin Test

Procalcitonin is a peptide that the body produces right before there is a spike in the hormone calcitonin. If procalcitonin levels in your blood are high, your body's next move is to produce calcitonin. You want to stop this process before it gets that far because high procalcitonin levels are indicative of widespread bacterial infection in the body. Sepsis and death might follow unless your doctor intervenes quickly. This is the test most commonly used to determine if your infection is viral or bacterial in nature because a viral infection will not cause a high level of procalcitonin in the blood. 

Blood Is Drawn and Put Through the Test

Much like a five-minute strep culture, it only takes a few minutes to test your blood for this peptide. A nurse or phlebotomist will draw a vial of your blood and run it through the test. Within a few minutes, it will become very apparent whether your illness is bacterial in nature or viral in nature. If it is viral in nature, your doctor may be able to treat it with known antivirals, but most viral infections just have to run their course.

If it is bacterial in nature, your doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics to help kill the bacterial infections and return you to a better state of health. Depending on the severity of the bacterial infection, your doctor may or may not want to admit you to the hospital for observation for the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Being very close to a septic situation will definitely land you in the hospital for a couple of days until you are over the worst of it. 

For more information on procalcitonin, consult a resource in your area.