Rapid antigen testing for the surveillance of influenza epidemics.


OBJECTIVE To assess the use of a 'near patient' test for rapid antigen detection to obtain the more timely acquisition of data for the surveillance of influenza epidemics. METHODS To the classical cell culture system used for the surveillance of influenza, a 'near patient' test was added. The cell culture method was applied for the detection of influenza virus in specimens sent to our laboratory. In contrast, the 'near patient' test was used directly by practitioners in their practices to screen patients for the presence of influenza virus antigen. RESULTS The results for two seasons are presented. The 'near patient' test was able to detect a developing influenza epidemic with the same reliability as clinical consultation reports for influenza-like illness or the conventional culture method. However, the results obtained were available 9 days earlier on average, compared with cell culture. Because of this, results concerning the epidemics could be announced via the internet more rapidly. Although the 'near patient' test demonstrated a lower sensitivity than detection by conventional cell culture, the sensitivity was still sufficiently high to reveal the characteristics of the epidemics in the community. CONCLUSIONS Rapid influenza testing is a reliable tool for influenza surveillance and, compared with traditional methods (virus detection on cell culture and monitoring of influenza-like illness), provides faster results. Although the 'near patient' test has limited sensitivity compared with cell culture, results were consistent over two seasons, and suggest that rapid testing should be part of a surveillance program.

Cite this paper

@article{Wunderli2003RapidAT, title={Rapid antigen testing for the surveillance of influenza epidemics.}, author={Werner Wunderli and Yves Thomas and Dr.-Ing. A. M{\"{u}ller and Matthew S. Dick and Laurent Kaiser}, journal={Clinical microbiology and infection : the official publication of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases}, year={2003}, volume={9 4}, pages={295-300} }