Infectious disease specialists design new rapid flu test

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NEW flu tests can diagnose the flu in as little as 30 minutes, to cut down on needless antibiotic use, which can build up resistance and make some infections untreatable by current methods. Every year, up to one in five Americans will get the flu. It’s not always easy to make an accurate diagnosis and as many as 90 percent of patients who really have the flu will be prescribed antibiotics, drugs that will not help flu viruses. New, faster flu tests will help doctors diagnose patients quicker, which can cut down on needless antibiotic use.
When patients take antibiotics that they don’t need, it leads to antibiotic resistance. Ann Falsey, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, New York, says, “It’s a huge problem. There are some bacteria which have become resistant to all antibiotics.”
Now, with a simple swab of the nose, rapid flu tests can diagnose the flu in as little as 30 minutes compared to the usual five days. Dr. Falsey told DBIS, “I think the big advantage would be to cut down on needless antibiotic use.”
Dr. Falsey found using rapid flu tests reduced the number of antibiotics prescribed and used. She says, “The doctors less-frequently prescribed antibiotics, and if they had started them on antibiotics, when the test came back, then they stopped the antibiotics.”
Most hospitals are using rapid flu tests, but the tests are not common in doctor’s offices yet.
According to Dr. Falsey, that’s where they’ll have the most impact. The tests will also confirm the need for anti-viral medications, the only drugs that actually help the flu. Dr. Falsey says not every virus is influenza, so the rapid flu test won’t provide all the information a doctor needs.
However, researchers are hoping to develop rapid tests like these to identify other viruses, like corona viruses and rhino viruses.
The American Society for Microbiology contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report. New tests to rapidly detect the flu are allowing doctors to cut down on the number of hospital patients who receive antibiotics, helping soften the rapidly worsening threat of antibiotic resistance.
Doctors are less likely to prescribe antibiotics, which work on bacteria but not viruses, if there is documented evidence that a patient has the flu — which is caused by a virus — and not a bacterial infection. The research was done by infection control experts at Rochester General Hospital in New York.

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