United Kingdom researchers create 1-hour flu test

Infectious disease investigators at the United Kingdom's National Institute for Health Research Southampton Biomedical Research Centre have developed a novel "point-of-care" test for respiratory viruses that can deliver results within an hour, according to a recent study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

The testing system conducts a rapid molecular test and processes swabs immediately on a portable device, eliminating the need to send the samples to the laboratory.

Researchers assessed the testing system's efficacy at the University Hospital Southampton during the winters of 2015 and 2016. In total, the study involved 720 patients with acute respiratory illnesses like influenza, pneumonia and exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Half of the patients were tested with the point-of-care system and the others received standard care.

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Analysis revealed the patients who received the rapid test were given the appropriate treatment for their respiratory condition more quickly than the controls. Additionally, patients that tested positive for influenza were appropriately isolated from other patients and received treatment sooner and more often than patients who did not receive the rapid diagnostic test.

The test has the potential to reduce the likelihood of a clinician unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics, according to the study's authors.

"Lung infections in asthma and COPD patients are a common cause of antibiotic overuse," said Tristan Clark, MD, an associate professor in infectious diseases at the University of Southampton and the lead developer of the test. "Antibiotics are only effective at treating bacterial infections and not infections caused by a virus like the cold or flu viruses, yet they are often given antibiotics 'just in case,' when the cause of the infection is not immediately apparent. Tests like this, which enable tailored and personalized medicine, have a major role to play in the fight against antibiotic resistance."

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