Flu or covid? New PCR and antigen tests help to recognize it

The so-called multiplex testing began to be used on a trial basis at the end of last year and spread to other laboratories and hospitals in the course of this year. Doctors still praise more modern diagnostics. “It is already a routine matter, but in the summer months the flu is not feared enough for people to get tested for it too,” says the head of the Institute of Microbiology at the University Hospital of St. Anna in Brno Filip Růžička. “Mostly they come with suspicion of COVID, or to be tested before going abroad, we have approximately forty of them a day at the collection center,” he continues.

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Multiplex tests are not only available to people in the form of PCR, but also as antigen tests. The tests use so-called colloidal gold immunochromatography to detect covid and flu antigens, the swab is taken from the nose. The Chinese manufacturer claims a reliability of up to 99 percent. However, the State Institute for Medicines Control considers the result to be only preliminary. “Any reactive sample tested with the COVID-19 kit (colloidal gold method) must be confirmed by alternative testing methods and clinical findings,” the test report states.

Multiplex tests from several manufacturers are available in pharmacies, but their sales so far are only in the tens. “We included these tests in our assortment at the beginning of August. In the third week of August, we sold 64 pieces, which was a record so far, the next week it was 27, the week after that 19. Last week, clients bought 31 pieces,” calculates the spokesperson of the pharmacy network Dr. Max Michal Petrov. In contrast, the chain sold 172,000 ordinary antigen tests for covid during August. “We see a clear increase in interest both among individual clients and from companies,” adds the spokesperson. The price of combined antigen tests ranges from approximately 60 to 170 crowns.

Faster and more accurate

Until the covid pandemic, routine testing of patients for flu viruses was rare, but now it may become common medical practice. “Essentially, it turned out, as many times in the past, that a crisis can move science forward quickly and introduce drugs and methods into clinical practice, which have been discussed for a long time,” says general practitioner Jiří Bartoš. He finds flu testing helpful. “Any tool that leads to faster and more accurate diagnosis is a benefit to medicine, including these tests. Here, I see a great benefit in that they could help doctors to identify the bacterial or viral origin of a patient’s problems and prevent antibiotics from being administered unnecessarily,” explains Bartoš.

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According to doctor Filip Růžička, the multiplex method is generally a way to save time. “Determine the presence of, for example, twelve different active substances from one sample. It can also be tested for the presence of other disease agents, whether of viral or bacterial origin. This is especially appreciated by colleagues who receive, for example, a patient with severe pneumonia and they can quickly find out what caused this condition and set up the appropriate treatment,” adds the head of the FNUSA Institute of Microbiology in Brno.

However, according to Jiří Bartoš, in order to start using flu tests in general practitioners’ offices on a large scale, it would be necessary to set the terms of reimbursement and open a discussion with insurance companies. “There would be a really large amount of tests, especially during the flu season, which would be difficult for the doctor’s office to do on their own,” he adds.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Flu covid PCR antigen tests recognize

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