BACKGROUND: Acute respiratory illnesses (ARI) are mostly viral in etiology and cause significant morbidity and mortality. Point of care PCR (POC-PCR) is a promising new technology for rapid virus identification but utility in the Emergency Department (ED) is not yet defined.OBJECTIVES: Primarily, to investigate the value of POC-PCR in rapidly identifying RSV and influenza in the setting of ED triage. Additionally, to assess whether rapid knowledge of accurate test results would improve patient management by preventing nosocomial transmission and optimizing the prescription of antimicrobials for ARIs.STUDY DESIGN: A prospective cohort study of consecutive ED patients with ARI symptoms during peak flu season was conducted. Patient nasopharyngeal swabs were collected and tested using a POC-PCR device; physicians and patients were blinded to results. Virus positive and negative groups were compared by ED patient room placement and antimicrobial therapy ordered. Specificity and sensitivity were calculated using laboratory-PCR as the gold standard.RESULTS: Of 119 participants, 52.9% were POC-PCR positive - Influenza A (42.9%), RSV (41.3%), influenza B (15.9%). Nearly 70% of virus positive patients were placed rooms shared with non-ARI patients. Antibiotics were prescribed for 27.3% of virus positive patients, and 77.8% of oseltamivir-eligible patients did not receive therapy. POC-PCR was 100% sensitive (95% CI, 80.5-100.0%) and 95.2% specific (95% CI, 76.2-99.9%).CONCLUSIONS: Rapid POC-PCR for influenza and RSV in ED triage has excellent sensitivity and specificity and the potential to improve social distancing practices through better triage and increase appropriate prescription of antimicrobials.
View details for PubMedID 30261422