Several tests are available to detect flu viruses in respiratory specimens. The most common is called “rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs).” RIDTs work by detecting the parts of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune response.
In addition to RIDTs, there are several more accurate flu tests available that must be performed in specialized laboratories, such as those found in hospitals or public health laboratories.
These tests include reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), viral culture, and immunofluorescence assays.
“Home tests are a valuable tool to support the management of influenza and other respiratory infections,” said Matthew J. Thompson, professor of global health and family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.
More than 600 Seattle-area residents participated in the 2020 study between February and the end of May. Participants were mailed influenza testing kits. After swabbing their noses, they either recorded the results through an app or returned the kits to the lab.
Then determined that the sensitivity and specificity of the self-test were comparable with those of influenza rapid diagnostic tests used in clinical settings.
False-negative results were more common when the self-test was administered after 72 hours of the appearance of symptoms, but were not related to inadequate swab collection or severity of illness.
This study underscores the imperative of expanding access to testing and lowering the costs.
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