Early diagnosis of lower respiratory tract infections (point-of-care tests)

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Respiratory tract infections are a common reason for prescribing antibiotics, although not all of these infections require such therapy. Rapid diagnosis of etiology using point-of-care tests is a potentially useful way of reducing prescriptions of both unnecessary and unnecessarily broad-spectrum antibiotics. This can also lead to the facilitation of appropriate infection control measures to prevent spread of respiratory viruses within institutions.

Recent findings

Point-of-care tests are available for diagnosing influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Legionella infections using easily obtainable specimens. Their main benefit is that results can be obtained in about 15 min with reasonable accuracy. In many situations, however, it is still important to confirm diagnosis with more accurate but slower tests such as bacterial cultures with antibacterial susceptibility testing or viral polymerase chain reaction testing.

Summary

Although the sensitivities of many of the rapid diagnostic tests are moderate, when used at the time of initial consultation, they have the potential to reduce costs, length of stay, secondary spread of respiratory viruses, and inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.

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