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Bedside test for viral infections could reduce unnecessary antibiotic use

Researchers are optimistic faster testing could enhance antimicrobial stewardship and ease bed pressures
Watford General Hospital

Researchers are optimistic faster testing could enhance antimicrobial stewardship and ease bed pressures

A quick and easy bedside test for viral infections could reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and hospital admissions, researchers claim.

A team at Watford General Hospital in Hertfordshire is trialling the procedure it takes just 50 minutes to obtain the results instead of around two days in a laboratory.

The test, known as point of care respiratory viral testing, could save hospitals about 2,000 for each patient not admitted to hospital, and it would help relieve winter pressure on beds, researchers told a conference.

Reduce prescribing

The team, presenting its findings to the European Respiratory Society international congress in Paris, said the procedure could also help reduce antibiotic resistance by cutting antibiotics prescribing.

    Researchers are optimistic faster testing could enhance antimicrobial stewardship and ease bed pressures


    Watford General Hospital, where the trial is taking place. Picture: Alamy

    A quick and easy bedside test for viral infections could reduce unnecessary antibiotic use and hospital admissions, researchers claim.

    A team at Watford General Hospital in Hertfordshire is trialling the procedure – it takes just 50 minutes to obtain the results instead of around two days in a laboratory.

    The test, known as point of care respiratory viral testing, could save hospitals about £2,000 for each patient not admitted to hospital, and it would help relieve winter pressure on beds, researchers told a conference.

    Reduce prescribing

    The team, presenting its findings to the European Respiratory Society international congress in Paris, said the procedure could also help reduce antibiotic resistance by cutting antibiotics prescribing.

    The procedure works by inserting a swab into the patient's nostril to collect a sample of secretions from the back of the nose. The sample is prepared and inserted into a compact machine called a FilmArray, which analyses the sample and generates a printout.

    West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust consultant physician in respiratory and general internal medicine Kay Roy told the conference that initial results for the first 1,075 patients demonstrated the potential of this service.

    'No adverse outcomes'

    'We were able to identify 121 patients who had viral infections, lacked evidence of bacterial infection, had a normal chest X-ray and only modest indicators of inflammation,' she said.

    'Of these, hospital admission was subsequently avoided in 25% and unnecessary antibiotics were avoided in 50%. None of the 30 patients who avoided hospital admission and who were not prescribed antibiotics experienced adverse clinical outcomes, which is reassuring.'

    The test uses the same technology as the hospital's microbiology laboratory but the results are delivered significantly more quickly, Dr Roy added.

    European Respiratory Society president-elect Tobias Welte said the approach could make a 'significant difference not only to hospitals but also to patients, whose quality of life will be much improved by avoiding unnecessary antibiotic use and admittance to hospital'.


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