A new influenza test developped by researchers at the University of Southampton, Great Britain, will enable hospitals to detect viruses among patients presenting with acute respiratory illness in less than an hour, and accelerate the provision of appropriate medical treatment.
Making use of a swab that is immediately processed on a portable molecular testing device, this novel point-of-care test (POCT) can identify patients presenting with acute respiratory illness who are suffering from influenza when they arrive in hospital, and expedite the provision of appropriate treatment while avoiding the delays associated with laboratory testing.
The test was the subject of a study during the winters of 2015 and 2016 that involved 720 patients presenting with acute respiratory illness, including pneumonia, severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In 2015, the instigator of the project, Southampton General Hospital, was overwhelmed by a large number of acute respiratory illness patients, who were suffering from a strain of influenza virus not covered by the flu vaccine of that year.
According to the findings of the study, which have been published in the The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, patients that tested positive for flu using the new POCT were isolated in a separate room and received appropriate antiviral treatment earlier and more frequently than study participants who received standard care.
For the British doctors who developed the POCT, the new diagnostic tool could play a role in reducing recourse to “just in case” antibiotics, and thus play a part in the fight against antibiotic resistance.