Study objective: We evaluate the performance of a rapid assay (Binax NOW) for the detection of influenza A virus in children.
Methods: The performance of an in vitro rapid immunochromatographic assay for detection of influenza A virus was compared to viral culture in 4,383 consecutive respiratory specimens received during the 2003 to 2004 season, which included an influenza A epidemic in October and November of 2003.
Results: The overall test sensitivity was 61.6% (95% confidence interval [CI] 60.3% to 63.2%) and specificity was 95.8% (95% CI 95.1% to 96.3%). In preplanned subset analyses, we found the test more sensitive in infants aged 90 days or younger (sensitivity 70.3%; specificity 96.6%) and less specific during the epidemic (sensitivity 61.7%; specificity 90.4%).
Conclusion: This rapid assay was highly specific for detecting influenza A in children and thus appears useful for confirming this infection. Because of its limited sensitivity, however, a negative test cannot rule out influenza A.