After a virtually non-existent flu season in 2020/2021 and with the revival of public life and the relaxation of social distancing measures, there is increasing concern that a large flu wave could occur in 2021/2022. It cannot be predicted if or how the missing flu season will affect the coming one, but the Robert Koch Institute considers it realistic that people will be more susceptible to circulating influenza viruses in the coming winter. The German Health Minister also emphasised in a press conference on the 6th October 2021 that protection from flu through vaccination is particularly important this year, since the absence of a flu wave in the previous season has led to a lower overall immunity.
The USA is also preparing for an increased number of influenza infections. For this reason the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that diagnostic laboratories switch to analyses with combination tests. These tests provide simultaneous detection of infections with influenza viruses and SARS-CoV-2 and allow differentiation between these viruses. This is important since the viruses cause very similar symptoms especially at the start of infection.
By using such combination tests it is possible to collect data on the spread of flu and at the same time to track the spread of COVID-19 in the population. Moreover, the scarce resources that are needed for the analyses are used as efficiently as possible, and samples from many patients with flu-like symptoms can be investigated per day. The idea behind this is to obtain maximal information for minimal material usage for the largest number of patients.
The EURORealTime SARS-CoV-2/Influenza A/B is a combination test that simultaneously detects viral RNA from the three viruses SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and influenza B with high sensitivity and specificity and differentiates between them. Influenza A and B are the two types of influenza virus that are responsible for annual flu outbreaks. Gathering data on the occurrence of the two virus types during the influenza season is important for monitoring and evaluating the spread of flu.
Since the required molecular processes for the detection of the viruses – reverse transcription of RNA and real-time PCR – take place in one step in the EURORealTime process, only one reaction is required per patient. The test system is validated for commonly used real-time PCR cyclers. Data analysis, evaluation and issuing of results are automated and standardised with the EURORealTime Analysis software.
The EURORealTime SARS-CoV-2/Influenza A/B thus helps to identify infections with SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses as efficiently as possible and to monitor the likely upcoming waves of both during winter.