Flu Virus -Advancements in Detection & Differentiation

Influenza outbreaks and epidemics pose ongoing risks to global human public health. Recently, human infections with A/H5N1 avian influenza viruses have heightened the potential for the emergence of an influenza A virus with pandemic potential. Laboratory identification of human influenza virus infections is commonly performed using direct antigen detection, virus isolation in cell culture, or detection of influenza-specific RNA by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). In recent years commercial influenza rapid diagnostic tests have become available. These are mostly antigen detection tests, which can produce results within 30 minutes. They can provide results in a clinically relevant time frame to complement the use of antiviral medications for treatment and chemoprophylaxis of influenza. Their wide availability has resulted in their increasing application to clinical situations, which may be inappropriate or where scientific data are lacking.

Flu is a contagious acute self-limiting infection caused by influenza A and B viruses. It is classically characterised by systemic symptoms, with fever, chills, headache, myalgia, malaise and anorexia, with respiratory symptoms such as cough, pharyngitis and rhinorrhoea. A number of different laboratory diagnostic tests can be used for detecting the presence of influenza viruses in respiratory specimens, including direct antigen detection tests, virus isolation in cell culture, or detection of influenza-specific RNA by real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR).  These tests differ in their sensitivity and specificity in detecting influenza viruses,  the amount of time needed from specimen collection until results are available, and the tests’ ability to distinguish between different influenza virus types (A versus B) and influenza A subtypes (e.g. novel H1N1 versus seasonal H1N1 versus seasonal H3N2 viruses). The choice of test depends on factors such as the duration of symptoms, prevalence of influenza in the community, the clinical setting and proximity to a laboratory. Prompt diagnosis is important because antiviral therapy is most efficacious when commenced in the first 48 hours of illness.

  • Assays and symptoms
  • Rapid detection methods by PCR
  • Nanotechnology and strain differentiation
  • Clinical impact & diagnostics approaches
  • Strain identification assays and rapid diagnostic testing for viral infections
  • Biomarkers for influenza

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