Conference Coverage

VIDEO: Rapid influenza test obviates empiric antivirals



– A test that only requires a maximum 2-hour wait for results was highly accurate at detecting influenza and respiratory syncytial virus infection in lung transplant patients, according to research presented at the CHEST annual meeting on Oct. 30.

This rapid and highly accurate test for detecting three common respiratory viruses has dramatically cut the need for empiric treatments and the risk for causing nosocomial infections in lung transplant patients who develop severe upper respiratory infections, Macé M. Schuurmans, MD, noted during the presentation.

This study involved 100 consecutive lung transplant patients who presented at Zurich University Hospital with signs of severe upper respiratory infection. The researchers ran the rapid and standard diagnostic tests for each patient and found that, relative to the standard test, the rapid test had positive and negative predictive values of 95%.

The number of empiric treatments with oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and ribavirin to treat a suspected influenza or respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV) has “strongly diminished” by about two-thirds, noted Dr. Schuurmans, who is a pulmonologist at the hospital.

Until the rapid test became available, Dr. Shuurmans and his associates used a standard polymerase chain reaction test that takes 36-48 hours to yield a result. Using this test made treating patients empirically with oseltamivir and oral antibiotics for a couple of days a necessity, he said in a video interview. The older test also required isolating patients to avoid the potential spread of influenza or RSV in the hospital.

The rapid test, which became available for U.S. use in early 2017, covers influenza A and B and RSV in a single test with a single mouth-swab specimen.

“We now routinely use the rapid test and don’t prescribe empiric antivirals or antibiotics as often,” Dr. Schuurmans said. “There is much less drug cost and fewer potential adverse effects from empiric treatment.” Specimens still also undergo conventional testing, however, because that can identify eight additional viruses that the rapid test doesn’t cover.

Dr. Schuurmans acknowledged that further study needs to assess the cost-benefit of the rapid test to confirm that its added expense is offset by reduced expenses for empiric treatment and hospital isolation.

He had no disclosures. The study received no commercial support.

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