Rapid Flu Tests a Good First Step: Study02/27/12
MONDAY, Feb. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Rapid diagnostic influenza
tests provide an accurate diagnosis, and their use during flu
season could lead to earlier treatment for patients and help
prevent the spread of the illness, two new studies suggest.
The 2012 flu season is just beginning and, despite the late
start, is expected to sicken up to 5 million people worldwide,
experts say. Most patients will recover, but up to 500,000 will
die, with the youngest and oldest patients most vulnerable.
The two studies, published online in the Feb. 28 issue of the
Annals of Internal Medicine, highlight the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Viral cultures are accurate in diagnosing flu but can take up to
10 days to provide results. Newer reverse transcriptase-polymerase
chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests provide results much sooner but are
expensive and require specialized equipment.
Rapid influenza diagnostic tests, which are inexpensive and easy
to use in a doctor's office, are another option, but little was
known about their accuracy.
In one study, researchers reviewed 159 published articles and
found that rapid influenza diagnostic tests accurately diagnose
flu, but are less accurate at ruling it out. This means that
patients with a negative result would require follow-up testing
with a viral culture or RT-PCR, the researchers said in a journal
They said their results suggest that rapid diagnostic tests
would be useful in clinical practice, especially when treating
children and other patients at risk for flu-related complications.
This includes people over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic
health conditions such as asthma.
For patients diagnosed with flu, doctors may decide to begin
treatment with antiviral drugs.
In the second study, researchers reviewed 74 published studies
and found that early treatment with antiviral drugs (within 48
hours) may confer more benefits than later treatment.
The researchers tested four commonly prescribed antivirals, and
said oral oseltamivir and inhaled zanamivir appeared to shorten
duration of flu symptoms compared to no treatment.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
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