INFLUENZA (FLU)

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The problem, the consequences, and rapid testing solutions

Each year, influenza (flu) causes serious infection and death around the globe, usually in the winter months (seasonal influenza). Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths.1

THE PROBLEM

Influenza symptoms are similar to those of other common respiratory infections. Patients presenting with these symptoms are commonly treated empirically, without a formal diagnosis. 

The problem in relation to antimicrobial stewardship is twofold. Patients with Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), a medical diagnosis based on symptoms alone, are often treated with antibiotics, even though the most common cause for this set of symptoms is influenza, a viral infection. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

Alternatively, these patients are often automatically prescribed with influenza antivirals, which will be unnecessary if influenza is not the cause of infection and are only effective if prescribed within 48 hours of onset of symptoms.

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THE CONSEQUENCES

Resistance to influenza anitivirals is emerging. Many strains of influenza have already developed resistance to the older class of flu antivirals, the adamantanes. After five decades of effective use in the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza, global resistance to these drugs has increased significantly in recent years.2

The new class of influenza antivirals, neuraminidase inhibitors, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), are currently suitable for all strains. Resistance to oseltamivir continues to increase worldwide but specific frequencies vary by geographical regions and population densities, with densely populated countries such as the United States, China and South Africa showing significant oseltamivir resistance.3

RAPID TESTING

By testing patients and providing results quickly, antibiotics can be withheld and antivirals can be prescribed only where appropriate. Physician awareness of a rapid diagnosis of influenza decreases antibiotic use.4

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ID NOW™ Influenza A & B 2 is a molecular flu test which provides accurate results in less than 13 minutes on the ID NOW platform. Significantly faster than other molecular methods and more accurate than conventional rapid testing, ID NOW Influenza A & B 2 enables you to deliver actionable flu results to your patients in any setting and empowers the appropriate use of antibiotics and antivirals. 

Abbott also offers a range of lateral flow tests to aid in the rapid diagnosis of flu, including BinaxNOW®Clearview® and Bioline; all excellent tools for determining those who require treatment.

View References

  1. WHO Influenza (Seasonal) Fact Sheet. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal). Accessed on 12 Oct 22.
  2. He, W. et al. Distribution and evolution of H1N1 influenza A viruses with adamantanes‐resistant mutations worldwide from 1918 to 2019. Journal of Medical Virology 2020. 93, 3473-3483.
  3. Zhang, W. et al. Frequency and distribution of H1N1 influenza A viruses with oseltamivir‐resistant mutations worldwide before and after the 2009 pandemic. Journal of Medical Virology 2022. 94, 4406-4416.
  4. Tillekeratne, L.G. et al. Use of Rapid Influenza Testing to Reduce Antibiotic Prescriptions among Outpatients with Influenza-Like Illness in Southern Sri Lanka. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 2015. 93, 1031–1037.
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