The effect of rapid respiratory viral diagnostic testing on antibiotic use in a children's hospital

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002 Dec;156(12):1230-4. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.156.12.1230.


Background: Acute viral respiratory disease is the most common reason for pediatric hospitalization in the United States. Viral illnesses may be mistaken for bacterial infection, and antibiotic therapy may be prescribed. Overprescribing of antimicrobials for viral illness is a factor contributing to increasing antimicrobial resistance among bacterial pathogens encountered in pediatrics.

Objective: To determine if the availability of a rapid diagnostic test for respiratory viruses would affect antibiotic use in a children's hospital.

Design: Retrospective medical record review.

Setting: A 232-bed urban children's hospital.

Participants: All hospitalized infants and children who underwent rapid testing (SimulFluor Respiratory Screen; Chemicon International Inc, Temecula, Calif) for respiratory viruses by direct fluorescent assay (DFA) during 2 successive winter seasons.

Main outcome measures: Rates of antibiotic prescribing in DFA-positive and DFA-negative patients during the 2 study periods.

Results: During the first winter season, DFA-positive patients had fewer days using intravenous antibiotics (2.4 vs 4, P =.04), fewer days using oral antibiotics (0.25 vs 2.5, P =.04), and fewer discharge prescriptions for oral antibiotics (37% vs 52%, P =.02) when compared with DFA-negative patients. Intravenous antibiotics were initiated less often for DFA-positive patients during the second winter season than during the first (26% vs 44%, P =.008).

Conclusions: Direct fluorescent assay testing was associated with a decrease in inappropriate antibiotic use. The availability of rapid viral diagnostics is an important tool for decreasing antibiotic prescribing in pediatric patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medical Records
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / microbiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / virology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • Utah


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents