October marks the beginning of flu season. As in previous years, flu cases are expected to peak between December and February, and taper off around May. While most cases of the “flu” are diagnosed and treated empirically, based on the common symptoms with which it usually presents (fever, headache, sore throat, cough, runny nose, as well as body aches being the most common ones), this is obviously not a 100% accurate method of diagnosis. Instead, physicians should consider using molecular influenza assays to get an accurate diagnosis, especially in the case of patients with complications.
Why is accurate diagnosis of influenza so important?
While empirical treatment of patients with flu-like systems can help resolve most cases of the flu, it can also lead to inappropriate treatment of influenza patients with antibiotics. This is a problematic issue, because antibiotics obviously have no effect on viral infections such as influenza, while at the same time potentially leading to the development of antibiotic resistance.
Furthermore, if the cause of the flu is indeed influenza, antiviral drugs are only really effective if they are administered within the first 48 hours after onset. Because of this, it’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis, in order to prescribe the right medications in a timely fashion, which is especially important for patients with complications.
Fortunately, physicians can now make use of Lenco’s molecular Respiratory Pathogens Panel (RPP), to quickly and accurately diagnose influenza and other respiratory infections that present nearly indistinguishable symptoms.
Research has shown that when molecular assays for influenza are available to physicians, this results in fewer patients who are prescribed antibiotics, while increasing those receiving antivirals (Bonner et al., 2003).
Using Molecular Testing to Diagnose Flu
While any patient can benefit from accurate diagnosis of influenza, the use of molecular assays, such as RPP, diagnose the flu should be considered essential if patients fall into one of the following categories (CDC, 2018):
- Adults 65+
- Children under 5
- Patients with symptoms of co-infections
- High risk patients that have other conditions likely to lead to complications
- Pregnant women
The availability of comprehensive molecular assays for detecting influenza infection enables physicians to prescribe effective treatment as fast as possible, which in turn helps improve patient outcomes and speed up their recovery, while also reducing secondary complications and the overall cost of treatment.
Discover the Benefits of Our Respiratory Pathogens Panel
Higher overall sensitivity and specificity in the Respiratory Pathogens Panel (RPP) provide accurate and comprehensive alternatives to rapid, in-office testing. Now patients can receive the right treatment the first time, potentially leading to higher patient satisfaction and lower costs.
The RPP is an FDA-cleared panel that provides diagnostic testing for 21 respiratory pathogens (17 viral, 4 bacterial). Precise diagnosis may help identify which patients to isolate or cohort faster and determine if antibiotic or antiviral therapy is appropriate. For more information, please contact your Sales Representative or call (718) 232-1515
Bonner, A. B., Monroe, K. W., Talley, L. I., Klasner, A. E., & Kimberlin, D. W. (2003). Impact of the Rapid Diagnosis of Influenza on Physician Decision-Making and Patient Management in the Pediatric Emergency Department: Results of a Randomized, Prospective, Controlled Trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12897288
CDC (2016). Overview of Influenza Testing Methods. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/overview-testing-methods.htm
CDC (2018). Guide for considering influenza testing when influenza viruses are circulating in the community. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/consider-influenza-testing.htm