The Food and Drug Administration approved a new test Friday to detect viral meningitis that can give results in less than three hours. Currently, tests can take up to a week to get results.
The Xpert EV test, developed by Cepheid of Sunnyvale, Calif., will be used along with other laboratory test to help doctors distinguish between viral meningitis and the more deadly meningitis caused by bacteria.
Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, causing inflammation of the tissues in these areas. Testing involves taking a sample of the fluid taken from a spinal tap. Until now, diagnostic tests have taken up to a week to get results.
The FDA says this test should help doctors avoid unecessary antibotics with viral meningits, and move quickly to treat bacterial meningitis, also known as acute meningitis, which can be deadly within as little as two days.
According to the FDA, the Xpert EV identifies the infection from a class of viruses known as Enterovirus, responsible for almost 90 percent of all viral meningitis cases. This fully automated test isolates and amplifies viral genetic material in a patient’s spinal fluid. The sample is put into a single-use cartridge, which is then loaded into an instrument that can run all the necessary tests.
Although the outcome between viral and bacterial meningitis can be very different, the symptoms can be very similar. For patients over 2 years of age, symptoms can include fever and chills, fever, stiff neck, vomiting and sensitivity to light.
According to the National Institute of Health, 70 percent of the 50,000 viral meningitis cases each year in the U.S. occur in children under 5 years old. Patients with viral meningitis usually recover without any medical treatment. But for patients with bacterial meningitis, the results can be hearing loss, brain damage or even death.