A new research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases reported that a new blood test seems to perform better than traditional blood cultures at detecting a type of fungal yeast infection, candidemia that commonly strikes hospital patients.

The T2Candida Panel is the first diagnostic test for candidemia (a type of bloodstream infection caused by Candida yeast) that does not require culturing a blood sample from the patient to see what grows. The results of the trial named DIRECT2.

With an accurate diagnosis, the patients can get the correct medication for the type of infection they have, which will hopefully allow stopping the infection before it spreads and also keeps the physicians from giving the patient a drug that won't work and potentially contributing to drug resistance.

For candidemia, shorter the time to administering an active antifungal medication to a patient, the higher the survival rate. The mortality rate among patients with candidemia is 40%. Blood cultures fail to detect yeast in around 50% of Candida infections, and typically take two to three days for positive results to be apparent.

The T2Candida Panel involves putting a small vial of blood from the patient into a desktop machine that uses magnetic resonance to scan the blood for the five most common Candida species. Positive or negative results are available within five hours.

From 14 U.S. hospitals, including UPMC, Clancy's team enrolled 152 patients who had been diagnosed with candidemia through a blood culture. On average, it took nearly two days for the culture to identify that the patient had candidemia, and another day-and-a-half to specify which strain of Candida.

In the trial, the T2Candida test was positive in 89% of patients at the time of a positive blood culture for Candida. The T2Candida Panel was significantly more likely to be positive than blood cultures in patients with recent candidemia, in particular, those patients who were being treated with antifungal drugs.

While the T2Candida Panel performed well in the trial, there were limitations, including the fact that the study did not assess whether T2Candida shortens time to starting antifungal treatment or improves patient outcomes.

The trial demonstrates that the T2Candida Panel is an important advance in the diagnosis of candidemia. The next steps should be evaluating it in direct clinical practice and determining if its use truly speeds up antifungal treatment, cuts unnecessary drug prescribing, results in better patient outcomes and is cost-effective, and identifies large numbers of candidemia cases that are currently not detected by blood cultures, the researchers concluded.