Rapid antigen-based testing for respiratory syncytial virus: moving diagnostics from bench to bedside?

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the most important cause of infantile bronchiolitis and pneumonia. It is ubiquitous, with most children acquiring their primary infection within the first year of life and with subsequent reinfection occurring in all age groups. Clinically, RSV is virtually indistinguishable from other viral respiratory infections. Traditionally, the microbiologic diagnosis of RSV has been based on moderate to complex techniques performed in a laboratory (cell culture, nucleic acid amplification and immunofluorescence assays); however, rapid antigen-detection tests offer potential advantages associated with point-of-care testing. This review seeks to familiarize the readers with RSV rapid antigen-detection tests, describe their performance characteristics and comment on their strengths and weaknesses. The authors will discuss the impact of rapid RSV testing on clinical practice, with a look to the future of what the field ultimately requires of a point-of-care diagnostic technique.

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