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Today, a new generation of rapid, easy-to-use flu tests offer unprecedented speed and exceptional clinical performance. Called ID NOW™, the new molecular platform no longer forces physicians and healthcare administrators to make tradeoffs during flu season, improving both patient experience and clinical efficacy.

When healthcare providers select an influenza diagnostic platform for their practice or hospital system, they consider a wide range of factors. These include the anticipated severity of the upcoming flu season, patient volume and the availability of clinicians trained to administer different types of tests.

Historically, the two attributes of influenza diagnostics most often considered have been speed, traditionally provided by rapid antigen tests, and accuracy, traditionally the exclusive domain of lab-based molecular culture platforms.

This new era of diagnosis began in 2014 with the launch of Abbott’s Influenza A & B assay on the ID NOW platform, the first-ever molecular flu test designed for use at the point of care (“POC”). Today, ID NOW and other POC molecular platforms allow clinicians to make more informed diagnoses and treatment decisions during a patient visit. With molecular testing transitioning from the lab to the point of care, accurate diagnosis can be seamlessly integrated into clinical practice.

Although many experts today already consider POC molecular testing to be the gold standard in flu detection, uptake is just beginning to gain momentum. If more widely adopted, this method can help link people with influenza to the right treatment right away, streamline patient screening, and improve infection control by reducing transmission of the flu virus.[1]

Today’s latest-generation POC molecular testing platforms offer important benefits for both patients and providers:

  • Sensitivity & Specificity – With higher sensitivity and specificity, molecular diagnosis is associated with fewer false negatives and fewer false positives, giving providers the confidence to prescribe the right treatment right away.[2] In the case of confirmed flu diagnoses, this means that antiviral therapy can be administered within the recommended 48 hours of symptom onset.[3]
  • Speed – Molecular flu tests today provide results quickly enough that a clinician can make an informed diagnosis while still at a patient’s side. Early positive results with the new ID NOW Influenza A & B 2 assay can arrive in as few as 5 minutes, with a negative result taking no more than 13 minutes.  This is even faster than many antigen tests on the market today.[4]
  • Ease of use – Beginning in 2015, many POC molecular flu tests have been Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-waived, meaning the FDA has determined they are simple to use with a low risk for an incorrect result. With CLIA waiver, these tests can be used in a wide range of settings including pharmacy-based clinics, urgent care centers and hospitals, increasing access to testing and streamlining care. Another feature of many POC molecular flu tests is room temperature storage of test components, creating a more versatile lab footprint and allowing testing to be performed in a variety of locations.
  • Antimicrobial stewardship – Rapid, accurate screening can help reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics that may result from incorrectly diagnosing a patient with a bacterial infection based on symptoms alone.[5] Furthermore, with a confirmed diagnosis, physicians can confidently prescribe antiviral medication for patients who have viral respiratory infections such as influenza.

“There is no doubt that near-patient molecular testing represents the future of diagnosing infectious diseases, especially those like influenza that are highly transmissible,” said Sharon Bracken, senior vice president, Rapid Diagnostics, Abbott. “Improved flu testing can lead to earlier diagnosis and shorter windows of time where patients can spread the virus, which benefits patients, providers and payers.”

Calculating the cost-effectiveness of flu testing is complicated by the many variables at play, including the duration and severity of a given flu season and the number of tests a given assay can perform. The economic benefits of accurate and timely diagnosis, however, have been well documented and include reductions in hospitalizations, length of inpatient stays, ancillary tests and complications.[6],[7],[8]

POC molecular flu platforms that detect different types of pathogens also maximize cost-effectiveness. For example, the ID NOW platform also includes an assay for Streptococcus A infection, which can occur at any time of the year, increasing its use year-round. Providers should also adopt best practices such as limiting testing to flu season or once influenza has been reported in the area, testing early in illness whenever possible and training staff on correct specimen collection.

Given the unpredictability of flu virus circulation and severity, accurate screening is a key element for ensuring positive patient outcomes and infection control. Today’s POC molecular assays offer highly accurate influenza detection in rapid and convenient platforms, empowering providers to make an even greater impact on the health of their patients and communities. Click here for more information about the ID NOW platform and assays.

[1] Kozel TR, Burnham-Marusich AR. Point-of-care testing for infectious diseases: past, present, and future. J Clin Microbiol. 2017;55:2313-2320.
[2] Peci A, et al. Performance of rapid influenza diagnostic testing in outbreak settings. J Clin Microbiol. 2014;52(12):4309-4317. doi: 10.1128/JCM.02024-14
[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Influenza antiviral medications: summary for clinicians.
[4] Abbott (2018). Abbott introduces the next generation of Influenza A & B and Strep A assays with fastest-ever time to molecular results [Press release].
[5] Falsey AR, Murata Y, Walsh EE. Impact of rapid diagnosis on management of adults hospitalized with influenza. Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(4):354-360. doi:10.1001/archinte.167.4.ioi60207
[6] Blaschke AJ, Shapiro DJ, Pavia AT, et al. A national study of the impact of rapid influenza testing on clinical care in the emergency department. J Ped Infect Dis. 2014;3(2):112-118. doi: 10.1093/jpids/pit071. First published online November 13, 2013.
[7] Williams KM, Jackson MA, Hamilton M. Rapid diagnostic testing for URIs in children: impact on physician decision making and cost. Infect Med. 2002;19(3):109-111.
[8] Bonner AB, Monroe KW, Talley LI, Klasner AE, Kimberlin DW. 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. Pediatrics. 2003;112(2):363-367.