Doctors have developed a speedy test which can find the cause for diarrhoea within an hour – instead of the current wait of several days.
Researchers at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) believe that the new method will “revolutionise” management of patients with suspected gastroenteritis.
They also say it will remove guesswork around the need for antibiotic treatment or isolation in a single room.
Dr Tristan Clark, a consultant in infectious diseases, said: “When a patient presents with diarrhoea the onus is on healthcare professionals to quickly determine its cause so patients with infections can be isolated to prevent them from infecting others and because they may require specific antibiotic treatment.
“As the standard lab test can take up to several days, that means all patients with diarrhoea are required to be placed in a side room in case they have an infection and doctors also have to guess as to whether to treat with antibiotics or not.
“Neither of these processes are adequate because isolation rooms are in high demand – particularly in winter – and overuse or misuse of antibiotics is fuelling antimicrobial resistance.
“This test, which is as accurate as the standard test, may offer an answer to these issues by providing a result in real-time.”
A UHS spokesman explained: “The GastroPOC trial has been running for two years and will conclude at the end of this winter.
“Researchers are able to analyse stool samples at the bedside using a portable device to process the result, which is known as a point of care test (POCT).
“The current standard test used across the NHS to determine the cause of diarrhoea requires the examination of a patients’ stool sample in the laboratory and can take several days to report back.”