Combination tests could be a real game changer this winter, if with a single nasal swab doctors are able to test patients for several different respiratory viruses at once.
GENETWORx is a Virginia company offering brand-new combination tests to hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide and analyzing the results in their lab.
“Our test is a combination test that tests flu A, B, RSV and COVID all in one sample,” said Steve Crossley, the vice president of acquisitions.
Not only are they more convenient for patients, but the tests allow labs to increase testing capacity. The tests don’t use as many resources and supplies, since they require only a single sample for the screening.
“As you can imagine, with the virus spreading nationally and also with flu season starting, we’re seeing a large spike in testing volume,” Crossley said. “We have capacity to do up to 100,000 tests per day.”
The GENETWORx combo test is a PCR test, which is the gold standard. The results are 99% accurate, but turnaround times can vary.
“Once the patient is swabbed, the physician then sends it to our lab. We receive the test the next day and then we have results that are typically back to patients within 48 to 72 hours of receiving that sample,” Crossley said.
Pediatricians are also banking on the technology.
“Instead of having a different swab for a different test, you can have one swab and get it all done at once. So it's easier, more convenient and also nicer for kids. And as a pediatrician, I'm all about that,” Dr. Christina Johns, of PM Pediatrics, said.
Their offices plan to offer a rapid combination test for COVID-19 and flu if flu cases start circulating in our region.
That particular test delivers results in under 30 minutes and works best on someone who has active symptoms like a cough or fever.
Johns said early detection is key when it comes to treatment.
“It's important because if we're going to start a patient on an antiviral medicine such as Oseltamivir, commonly known as Tamiflu, that needs to be started within the first 48 to 72 hours of symptom onset to be effective,” she said. “And for COVID-19, obviously, it is important that we know that somebody is positive as soon as possible so that we can do appropriate contact tracing, isolate them and do our best to control the spread of the virus.”
Several companies offer combination tests and the FDA recently approved one that can be done from the comfort of your own home, with a prescription.
The tests can be expensive, so it’s important to talk to your doctor to figure out if it’s right for you and if it's covered by health insurance.