A finger-prick blood test could help prevent overuse of antibiotics in people with a common lung condition. What’s more, the approach is safe for patients, according to a new British study.

Flares of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease account for a large portion of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. But a study using a finger-prick test that measures c-reactive protein in the blood resulted in 20% fewer people using unneeded antibiotics during flares, the researchers wrote. The reduction in antibiotic use did not harm patients’ near-term recovery or result in greater use of healthcare services over the following six months, they reported.

C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation that rises rapidly in response to serious infections. During a flare-up, people with COPD who have low levels appear to receive little benefit from antibiotic treatment, explained Nick Francis, Ph.D., of Cardiff University.

“We were able to achieve a reduction in antibiotic use that is about twice the magnitude of that achieved by most other antimicrobial stewardship interventions, and demonstrate that this approach was safe,” he concluded.

Read the study