COVID-19 Pandemic and Upcoming Influenza Season-Does an Expert's Computed Tomography Assessment Differentially Identify COVID-19, Influenza and Pneumonias of Other Origin?

J Clin Med. 2020 Dec 28;10(1):84. doi: 10.3390/jcm10010084.


(1) Background: Time-consuming SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR suffers from limited sensitivity in early infection stages whereas fast available chest CT can already raise COVID-19 suspicion. Nevertheless, radiologists' performance to differentiate COVID-19, especially from influenza pneumonia, is not sufficiently characterized. (2) Methods: A total of 201 pneumonia CTs were identified and divided into subgroups based on RT-PCR: 78 COVID-19 CTs, 65 influenza CTs and 62 Non-COVID-19-Non-influenza (NCNI) CTs. Three radiology experts (blinded from RT-PCR results) raised pathogen-specific suspicion (separately for COVID-19, influenza, bacterial pneumonia and fungal pneumonia) according to the following reading scores: 0-not typical/1-possible/2-highly suspected. Diagnostic performances were calculated with RT-PCR as a reference standard. Dependencies of radiologists' pathogen suspicion scores were characterized by Pearson's Chi2 Test for Independence. (3) Results: Depending on whether the intermediate reading score 1 was considered as positive or negative, radiologists correctly classified 83-85% (vs. NCNI)/79-82% (vs. influenza) of COVID-19 cases (sensitivity up to 94%). Contrarily, radiologists correctly classified only 52-56% (vs. NCNI)/50-60% (vs. COVID-19) of influenza cases. The COVID-19 scoring was more specific than the influenza scoring compared with suspected bacterial or fungal infection. (4) Conclusions: High-accuracy COVID-19 detection by CT might expedite patient management even during the upcoming influenza season.

Keywords: COVID-19; Sars-CoV-2; computed tomography; influenza; pneumonia; radiology.