The High-risk Influenza Screen Test (HIST), developed by Australian researchers, can identify those patients who need urgent, life-saving treatment. The test works by measuring an “early warning signal” that is released into the blood, which then kick starts the immune system, telling it to fight the infection that is invading the body. The results of the research were published in the European Respiratory Journal.
The HIST was developed by Dr. Benjamin Tang, who works in the Department of Intensive Care Medicine at Nepean Hospital. Dr. Tang is also a researcher at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. The test works by using one drop of blood. Within just a few short hours, the HIST can reveal, with 91 percent accuracy, those patients who have influenza and are likely to develop a secondary infection such as pneumonia, which could be deadly.
Dr. Tang points out that influenza is a serious infection that can kill an otherwise healthy person in the prime of his or her life. In the past, doctors could only test a patient to see if they had an influenza infection, but they were unable to determine which of those patients stood a chance of deteriorating at a rapid rate.
However, by using the HIST, doctors are able to eavesdrop on a patient’s immune system and detect when his or her body goes on the defensive and starts fighting a serious and sometimes life-threatening infection, according to the Westmead Institute for Medical Research. Dr. Tang said the test offers an early warning system that will enable doctors to have a better chance of treating the patient’s infection before it can become more serious and possibly kill him or her.
The new flu test works on any influenza infection, regardless of the type of virus or the strain. This is possible because the test is measuring how the body is responding to the infection rather than trying to determine the type or strain. Dr. Tang said that HIST would enable doctors to quickly test patients during a pandemic or an influenza outbreak, and to determine those patients who are at the greatest risk for developing more serious or life-threatening complications.
Dr. Tang said the new test is operational on equipment that is available currently in most pathology labs. In addition, HIST could be used to plot a patient’s immune response to new drugs, which would help doctors determine the mediation’s effectiveness in individual patients.
By Trixie Dillwood
Photo Courtesy Westmead Institute for Medical Research