OBJECTIVE - The objective of this study is to evaluate the diagnostic performance of the BinaxNow Influenza A&B rapid antigen test (RAT) in emergency department (ED) patients.
METHODS - We prospectively enrolled a systematic sample of ED patients older than 6 months with acute respiratory symptoms or nonlocalizing fever during 3 consecutive influenza seasons (2008-2011). Nasal and throat swabs collected by research personnel were tested for influenza by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Clinicians independently ordered RATs during clinical care; these specimens were collected by clinical staff and tested for influenza using the BinaxNow RAT. Patients with both a research RT-PCR and clinical RAT were included in the study. Rapid antigen test diagnostic performance was evaluated using RT-PCR as a criterion standard, with preplanned, stratified analysis for subject age, duration of symptoms, influenza subtype, and polymerase chain reaction cycle threshold, which provides a semiquantitative estimate of viral load.
RESULTS - Of 561 subjects enrolled, 131 (23.4%) had a positive RT-PCR, and 37 (6.6%) had a positive RAT. Overall, RAT performance included sensitivity of 24.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.5%-32.9%), specificity of 98.8% (95% CI, 97.1%-99.6%), positive predictive value of 86.5% (95% CI, 70.4%-94.9%), negative predictive value of 81.1% (95% CI, 77.4%-84.3%). Rapid antigen test sensitivities were low for all categories of subject age, symptom duration, influenza subtype, and cycle threshold.
CONCLUSION - The BinaxNow RAT demonstrated high specificity and poor sensitivity in ED patients selected by treating clinicians for influenza testing. A negative RAT is a poor predictor for the absence of influenza in the ED and should not be used as a criterion to withhold antiviral medications.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.