Is Flu the Next Pandemic? - Episode 19

Cotesting for COVID-19 and Influenza

Dr George Loukatos reviews available tests for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses and the benefits of using 1-swab nasal tests.

George Loukatos, MD: Early in the pandemic, we were lucky. We partnered with a company that was developing a combination influenza and COVID-19 test and helped them run their clinical trial. We started using these tests fairly early, and it gave us the ability to determine whether people had the flu or COVID-19. The test we’re using is called the Status COVID-19/Flu A&B test. It allows us to tell the patient with 1 swab, rather than 2 different swabs, you have COVID-19 vs you have flu, or both. Since then there have been multiple other tests that have come out. We’ve stuck with the Status test because it’s a good product, the sensitivity and specificity are high, and we’ve been satisfied with it. My understanding is that from Quest Diagnostics, through other companies like Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2, Flu/RSV, they have added those. There are other combo tests out there that have been developed, but because of our positive experience with the Status flu and COVID-19 test, we’ve stuck with that one.

One of the great things about the Status COVID-19 and flu test is that it’s an all-in-one test, so we’re able to test for 3 different pathogens with just 1 nasal swab, which is huge for the patients. When the pandemic first started, the biggest complaint we had from patients was they were afraid of these swabs, especially when they were nasal pharyngeal, and had to go all the way back into their throats. The Status is a nasal swab test. We swab the bilateral nasal turbinates, and that’s more comfortable for the patient. And again, it allows us to test for both without having to do multiple swabs. These tests have become readily available. For us, the biggest positive for the Status vs some of these more expensive PCR [polymerase chain reaction] and multiple viral panel tests is the cost. When a patient comes in and we’re testing for flu or COVID-19, a lot of these PCR tests that do a complete respiratory panel are expensive. And especially after January when deductibles haven’t been met, I don’t want my patients getting a bill for a $300 laboratory test. The fact that the Status test is affordable has been great because it’s allowing us to really take care of our patients while keeping their bills low. The other great positive about these tests is that we get results in 10 to 15 minutes. So we’re able to give the patient answers right away, get their treatment plan implemented, and get them on their way with not just accurate results, but also the appropriate medications to get them feeling better.

Transcript Edited for Clarity