Sydney: In a first, Australian researchers have developed a blood test that can predict, with 91 per cent accuracy, which influenza patients will potentially develop deadly secondary infections, such as pneumonia.
The High-risk Influenza Screen Test (HIST) measures “an early warning signal” released by the patient’s body into their blood to “kick start” their immune system’s fight against the infection.
“Influenza can sometimes kill otherwise healthy people in the prime of their lives,” said Benjamin Tang from the Nepean Hospital in New South Wales, Australia.
The test needs only a single drop of blood and within a few hours it can predict, with 91 per cent accuracy, which patients with influenza will go on to develop infections such as pneumonia.
Previously doctors could only test for influenza infection but didn’t know which patients would be at risk of rapid deterioration.
“By using the HIST Test we’re eavesdropping on the immune system to pick up when the body first mounts a defence against a serious, life-threatening infection,” Tang added.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, deciphered the genetic codes that immune cells release to warn the body of a serious infection, such as pneumonia, caused by the influenza virus.
In addition, HIST will be useful during pandemics when there is a delay in developing vaccines for strains of the influenza virus.
“We can now test people during a pandemic, or outbreak of a new flu virus, to identify those who might be at greater risk of developing serious complications. The test works with any flu infection as it looks at how the body reacts rather than the strain or type of virus,” Tang explained.
The early warning can provide a greater chance to treat the patient’s infection before it overwhelms them and potentially kills them, the researchers said.
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