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Hi-tech machine gets faster results for doctors and patients

5 July 2018

The laboratory at Rockhampton Hospital now has state-of-the-art flu testing, providing an accurate result within the hour.

The GeneXpert rapid point-of-care testing technology was rolled out in major centres around the state following last year’s horror flu season as part of Queensland Health’s $1.3 million investment to help manage flu outbreaks.

Supervising Scientist of Microbiology Greg Cave is impressed with the compact size, accuracy and speed of diagnosis of the machine, which tests for influenza A and B and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“Obviously we need to know quickly whether children have the highly contagious RSV so they can be isolated rather than putting them in the general Children’s Ward,” Mr Cave said.

The antigen testing used in the past was quite fast, however it was only about 85% sensitive, and if the virus was not detected the specimen would need to be referred to Brisbane for further, more accurate PCR technology. Results would take overnight.

This new test in Rockhampton uses “real time” PCR technology, therefore eliminating the need to refer specimens to Brisbane for primary diagnosis of Influenza A and B and RSV viruses while giving a 99.8% accurate definitive result in less than 1 hour (the actual test taking only 34 minutes to perform).

It is important to get an early accurate diagnosis to ensure the appropriate treatment is commenced as soon as possible, which means a far better outcome for a patient.

The test uses a nasopharyngeal (nose) swab, using special FLOQ Swabs which are more comfortable for the patient, release a lot of the particle and gather a much larger viral load.

“This is an excellent little instrument,” Mr Cave said.

There have been 189 influenza notifications in Central Queensland so far this year, resulting in 13 hospital admissions.

Last updated: 30 August 2018

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