Home-Based Flu Tests as Accurate as Rapid Diagnostic Testing in Clinical Settings

A sample of the home test kit for influenza sent to participants in a Seattle study comparing home-based testing and rapid diagnostic testing in clinical settings. Courtesy of Dean Owen/Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine

Home-based, self-administered tests for influenza are comparable in accuracy to rapid diagnostic tests in clinical settings, according to a recently published, peer-reviewed study.

“Home tests are a valuable tool to support the management of influenza and other respiratory infections,” said Matthew J. Thompson, professor of global health and family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. Thompson is the senior author on the study and a primary-care physician at UW Medicine.

“The tests facilitate earlier diagnoses and reduce the time from the onset of symptoms to patients seeking appropriate care,” he said.

More than 600 Seattle-area residents participated in the 2020 study between February and the end of May. Participants were mailed influenza testing kits. After swabbing their noses, they either recorded the results through an app, or returned the kits to the lab of Lea Starita in the Brotman Baty Institute of Precision Medicine. Starita is an assistant professor of genome sciences at the UW School of Medicine, and one of the study co-authors.

The researchers determined that sensitivity and specificity of the self-test were comparable with those of influenza rapid diagnostic tests used in clinical settings. False-negative results were more common when the self-test was administered after 72 hours of the appearance of symptoms, but were not related to inadequate swab collection or severity of illness.

Source: University of Washington School of Medicine