Simple Paper Strip Test Could Detect Flu and Tell Patients What Strain They Have

Researchers at MIT, Harvard and Princeton have developed a low-cost paper strip test for the flu that could lead to quick and accurate diagnoses at doctors’ offices.

A simple paper strip test may help more patients find out which type of flu they have and whether antiviral meds will help.

Right now, fewer than 1% of people get tested because it takes trained personnel, specialized equipment, and freezers to store reagents.

Researchers from MIT, Harvard and Princeton have now developed a low-cost paper strip test that distinguishes between the two main types of seasonal flu --- influenza A and B --- as well as the subtypes H1N1 and H3N2.

The new test is based on a technology called SHINE, which identifies specific sequences of viral RNA in samples. SHINE was first used to detect for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID.

The authors say this adapted version could help improve outbreak response and bring accurate and fast flu tests to doctor’s offices.

“Being able to tease apart what strain or subtype of influenza is infecting a patient has repercussions both for treating them and public health interventions,” says Jon Arizti-Sanz, First Co-Author.

For example, the tests could help doctors decide whether to prescribe an antiviral medication, which only works on certain strains.

In the future, the researchers hope to adapt the paper strip test to detect swine and bird flu strains.

Source: The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics

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