Matthew Binnicker, Ph.D., Director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory in the Division of Clinical Microbiology at Mayo Clinic, recently spoke with Consultant360 regarding testing for viral gastroenteritis.
According to Dr. Binnicker, it is important to consider a few factors before determining if a test needs to be ordered. If the patient has been experiencing symptoms for more than one week, or if the patient is severely ill or is immunosuppressed, ordering a test to determine the cause may be appropriate. Importantly, diarrheal diseases are commonly caused by viruses, which are not usually treatable.
Because providers are now more commonly using multiplex gastrointestinal panels, it is possible for some patients to be diagnosed with a “coinfection,” which occurs when two or more different pathogens are detected in the same stool sample. The panels have the ability to test for up to 20 different causes of infectious diarrhea in one test; however, they can be expensive and interpreting the results can be difficult.
Dr. Binnicker went on to comment that “In most situations, patients with viral gastroenteritis do not need to be tested or treated. The illness will resolve on its own, typically in 3 to 4 days.” But in select circumstances, testing can be a good idea to identify a cause and possible treatment.