Pandemic influenza testing at the coalface: time for reassessment?

David W Smith, David J Speers and Rodney A Bowman
Med J Aust 2010; 192 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2010.tb03625.x
Published online: 3 May 2010

To the Editor: In their recent article, Beaman and Leung raised a number of important and pertinent issues about what we can learn from the influenza pandemic of 2009.1 However, we would like to correct a number of misconceptions on their part, including claims that Western Australia’s central public reference laboratory, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, (i) unreasonably favoured polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing over antigen testing; (ii) rationed and prioritised testing primarily because of inability to cope with the high demand; (iii) rarely achieved the benchmark turnaround time of 48 hours; and (iv) spent excessive time processing a large number of specimens, of which 96% were reported as negative.

  • Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA, Perth, WA.

  • 1. Beaman MH, Leung MJ. Pandemic influenza testing at the coalface: time for reassessment? Med J Aust 2010; 192: 102-104. <MJA full text>
  • 2. World Health Organization. Guidance to influenza laboratories: diagnosing swine influenza A/H1N1 infections of current concern. 25 April 2009. (accessed Feb 2010).
  • 3. Ginocchio CC, Zhang F, Manji R, et al. Evaluation of multiple test methods for the detection of the novel 2009 influenza A (H1N1) during the New York City outbreak. J Clin Virol 2009; 45: 191-195.
  • 4. Faix DJ, Sherman SS, Waterman SH. Rapid-test sensitivity for novel swine-origin influenza A (H1N1) virus in humans. N Engl J Med 2009; 361: 728-729.
  • 5. Baden LR, Drazen JM, Kritek PA, et al. H1N1 influenza A disease — information for health professionals. N Engl J Med 2009; 360: 2666-2667.
  • 6. Catton MG, Druce JD, Birch CJ. Australia’s influenza containment plan and the swine flu epidemic in Victoria. Med J Aust 2009; 191: 288. <MJA full text>


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