A new approach was developed in the form of a point-of-care test to diagnose flu and other viral infections in patients suffering from severe respiratory problems. This allows short- term treatment with antibiotics and less hospitalization stays.
This approach was developed by Dr Tristan Clark, who serves as an associate professor in infectious diseases at the University of Southampton and colleagues at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre. The point-of-care testing approach can be performed in hospital emergency rooms and acute medical units.
In this approach, swabs are processed instantly on a portable device together with a quick molecular test and there is no need of sending samples to the lab, so that results can be obtained just within an hour instead of a few days.
The system was tested in a study at UHS during the winters of 2015 and 2016; it included 720 patients with acute respiratory diseases like pneumonia, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). One-half of the patients had standard care and the other half of them had point-of-care testing, where the device analyzed the samples and the results were then submitted to their physicians. As per results of the study, patients who took the point-of-care test received the right therapy for their lung illnesses faster.
Additionally, patients who were found to have flu in the point-of-care testing were isolated and administered antiviral drugs rapidly than those in the standard group.
Dr Clark, a consultant in infectious diseases at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, explained that My vision is that any patient with acute respiratory problems will have this point-of-care test once they visit the hospital. That will help us identify the virus infection; let us say flu, if a patient has flu he or she can be separated in a side room and treated with antiviral medications without any further delay.
Dr Clark also pointed out the efficacy of the test to handle antibiotic resistance. The test can reduce unwanted or inefficient use of drugs. He mentioned, Lung infections in COPD and asthma patients are a normal cause of antibiotic overuse. Antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections only and they are not efficient for viral infections. This test allows personalized and tailored medicine which can play a crucial role in combating with antibiotic resistance.
The point-of-care test became prominent during the winter of 2015 when, during the study, doctors at Southampton General Hospital have seen a large number of patients visiting the hospital with respiratory problems who were infected with a strain of influenza which is not covered by the seasonal flu vaccine.
Written by Lax Mariappan Msc.