The limitations of point of care testing for pandemic influenza: what clinicians and public health professionals need to know.
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As the world prepares for the next influenza pandemic, governments have made significant funding commitments to vaccine development and antiviral stockpiling. While these are essential components to pandemic response, rapid and accurate diagnostic testing remains an often neglected cornerstone of pandemic influenza preparedness. Clinicians and Public Health Practitioners need to understand the benefits and drawbacks of different influenza tests in both seasonal and pandemic settings. Culture has been the traditional gold standard for influenza diagnosis but requires from 1-10 days to generate a positive result, compared to nucleic acid detection methods such as real time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Although the currently available rapid antigen detection kits can generate results in less than 30 minutes, their sensitivity is suboptimal and they are not recommended for the detection of novel influenza viruses. Until point-of-care (POC) tests are improved, PILPN recommends that the best option for pandemic influenza preparation is the enhancement of nucleic acid-based testing capabilities across Canada.
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