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Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 2005 Mar;12(3):367-70.

Evaluation of three immunoassay kits for rapid detection of influenza virus A and B.

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University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, 4200 E 9th Ave., Campus box C227, Denver, CO 80220, USA.


Influenza causes high morbidity and mortality in very young and elderly individuals, which can be controlled with antivirals and/or vaccines. The success of therapeutic measures is predicated on the rapid and precise diagnosis of the infection. We compared three rapid influenza immunoassay (RIIA) kits for the diagnosis of influenza virus A and B using 178 respiratory specimens submitted for routine testing. BD Directigen Flu A+B (Directigen), Directigen EZ Flu A+B (EZ), and NOW Flu A NOW Flu B (NOW; Binax) tests had comparable combined influenza virus A and B specificities, varying from 94 to 98%. In contrast, the sensitivity of EZ was significantly lower (39%) than that of NOW (76%) and marginally lower than that of Directigen (56%). The differences in sensitivity were most evident in patients who were >9 years old (Directigen, 53%; EZ, 32%; and NOW, 69%). Among specimens, bronchoalveolar lavage fluids yielded the most discrepant results, with sensitivities varying from 0 (EZ) to 100% (NOW), followed by nasopharyngeal swabs (sensitivities of 27 to 100%) and nasal washes (50 to 81%). The Directigen kit format allowed for faster completion but more cumbersome performance and more difficult interpretation compared with the other two kits. Overall, NOW provided the most accurate diagnoses and had user-friendly technical characteristics. However, the low overall sensitivity of the RIIAs indicates that these can be used as screening tools only.

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