Rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs) are immunoassays for the identification of influenza A and B viral antigens in respiratory samples. In Europe, influenza generally occurs in epidemics between November and April each year.

Rapid tests are not as widely used in Europe at the point of care as they are in the US, primarily due to cost and performance issues. While using rapid tests does incur some additional cost, the savings provided by proper patient management can help offset the initial expense of the test.

Current challenges in testing for influenza

During flu season, emergency departments (EDs) must keep up with high demand for testing and diagnosis. While the duration of illness is often short, influenza brings with it a heavy economic and healthcare burden.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's fact sheet about seasonal influenza states that flu "causes 4-50 million symptomatic cases in the EU each year, and 15,000-70,000 Europeans die every year of causes associated with influenza".

Because flu-like symptoms occur in many other infections besides an influenza virus, care must be taken to accurately pinpoint the diagnosis. In Europe, there has always been a preference for making a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms.

As antibiotics are not effective against viral infections, flu testing supports effective antibiotic stewardship – helping conserve the supply of antibiotics available to treat lifethreatening infections. In some cases, antiviral treatment can effectively lessen symptoms, speed-up recovery, and reduce complications like ear infections in children and pneumonia in adults.

Significant benefits of rapid tests for flu in EDs

Rapid testing is a viable solution that is especially well suited to the demands of accident and emergency departments and can:

  • support clinical decision-making and treatment
  • improve bed management
  • be used by non-laboratory staff
  • decrease unnecessary testing
  • provide results in 15 minutes or less.

In addition, positive test results allow the immediate implementation of infection control and prevention techniques – minimising the spread of the virus in the ED or in other clinical settings.

Sekisui Diagnostics OSOM Ultra Flu A&B Test provides EDs with an advancement in flu rapid-test technology, and is cleared for sale in the US and Europe.

In a recent study of 500 patients published in the Journal of Clinical Virology, the OSOM Ultra Flu A&B Test was proved to perform well in EDs. The authors noted, "Given the diagnostic performances, even among elderly patients, and reading of the results by ED personnel and the speed of obtaining the result, the OSOM Ultra Flu A&B Test can be considered a decisionmaking tool adapted to the ED context.

"We evaluated the capacity of ED personnel, nurses, and physicians to perform and read the RIDT. Our results indicate excellent consistency in reading the test with external personnel at the virology laboratory. These results allow us to envisage the use of the OSOM Ultra Flu A&B Test at point of care in the ED after training nursing and medical teams. Currently, in some EDs, suspected or compatible cases of influenza are not isolated or treated. Providing a test is performed early in the ED process, near to the patient, by an ED staff member and with a result available in less than 20 minutes, this should allow us to set up a quality programme aimed at reducing the risk of influenza nosocomial transmission."