PCR for flu surveillance

Historically, influenza outbreaks have been tracked by clinical findings and serology, and characterized by culture. In a study published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, Carman and colleagues compared the relative speed and sensitivity of three flu surveillance assays: serology, culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Samples were collected from the nose and throat of 168 patients within a mean 5.3 days after the onset of flu symptoms; 112 patients were subsequently con

September 26, 2000

Historically, influenza outbreaks have been tracked by clinical findings and serology, and characterized by culture. In a study published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, Carman and colleagues compared the relative speed and sensitivity of three flu surveillance assays: serology, culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Samples were collected from the nose and throat of 168 patients within a mean 5.3 days after the onset of flu symptoms; 112 patients were subsequently confirmed to have flu infection. The fastest laboratory results were obtained by PCR (36 hours), followed by culture (minimum, 1 week) and serology (minimum, 3 weeks). In 60% of patients with positive serology and negative PCR results, samples had been collected 8 or more days after the onset of symptoms. PCR did not yield any false-positive results. For samples collected within 7 days of the onset of symptoms, the sensitivity of PCR for any positive diagnosis (by PCR, serology or culture) was 94.2%; the sensitivity of serology for any positive diagnosis was 88.7%, whereas culture was comparatively insensitive. These findings show that PCR has advantages over serology for rapid, real-time flu surveillance, although the timing of sample collection for PCR analysis is important.

Popular Now

  1. Exercise Boosts Telomere Transcription
  2. Classic Example of Symbiosis Revised
  3. The Genetic Components of Rare Diseases
  4. Orangutan Imitates Human Speech
RayBiotech