WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

New technology could lead to rapid home influenza test

Research on a new technology may pave the way for an at-home influenza test, according to a recent presentation at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

The uncertainty of current rapid tests encourages doctors to confirm test results using a flu viral culture, which takes three to 10 days to produce the results. By waiting that long, the window for patients taking antiviral drugs slams shut. In addition, when flu patients visit healthcare facilities, they can spread the flu before the diagnosis is even made.

"Just going to the doctor's office or hospital for diagnosis can be counterproductive during a major flu outbreak," Suri Iyer, a researcher at Georgia State University, said. "It carries the risk of spreading the disease. During the last swine flu outbreak, hospitals in some areas went on TV to tell people not come to the ER. Not only could they spread the virus, but ERs did not have the facilities to test hundreds of worried people."

Iyer and Allison Weiss, a colleague and a researcher at the University of Cincinnati, launched the research on the new approach for diagnosing viral diseases. While existing rapid tests can produce results in approximately 15 minutes, they are expensive and sometimes produce false negative results.

The new test technology uses forms of carbohydrates that can capture flu antigens via a color change or other signal to indicate infection and the type of flu virus. The new approach would be quicker, cheaper and more reliable.

Laboratory experiments with the new approach were successful, verifying that the approach can detect flu viruses. Iyer and Weiss will move forward with human tests in the fall. The researchers want to eventually create a package similar to a pregnancy or strep throat test with an easy-to-read color change.