Impact of a Point-of-Care Rapid Influenza Test on Antibiotic Prescribing Patterns in Southern Sri Lanka
Background: Acute febrile respiratory illnesses, including influenza, account for a large proportion of ambulatory care visits worldwide. In the developed world, these encounters commonly result in unwarranted antibiotic prescriptions; data from more resource-limited settings are lacking. The purpose of this study was to describe the epidemiology of influenza among outpatients in southern Sri Lanka and to determine if access to rapid influenza test results was associated with decreased antibiotic prescriptions.
Methods: In this pretest- posttest study, consecutive patients presenting from March 2013- April 2014 to the Outpatient Department of the largest tertiary care hospital in southern Sri Lanka were surveyed for influenza-like illness (ILI). Patients meeting World Health Organization criteria for ILI-- acute onset of fever ≥38.0°C and cough in the prior 7 days--were enrolled. Consenting patients were administered a structured questionnaire, physical examination, and nasal/nasopharyngeal sampling. Rapid influenza A/B testing (Veritor System, Becton Dickinson) was performed on all patients, but test results were only released to patients and clinicians during the second phase of the study (December 2013- April 2014).
Results: We enrolled 397 patients with ILI, with 217 (54.7%) adults ≥12 years and 188 (47.4%) females. A total of 179 (45.8%) tested positive for influenza by rapid testing, with April- July 2013 and September- November 2013 being the periods with the highest proportion of ILI due to influenza. A total of 310 (78.1%) patients with ILI received a prescription for an antibiotic from their outpatient provider. The proportion of patients prescribed antibiotics decreased from 81.4% in the first phase to 66.3% in the second phase (p=.005); among rapid influenza-positive patients, antibiotic prescriptions decreased from 83.7% in the first phase to 56.3% in the second phase (p=.001). On multivariable analysis, having a positive rapid influenza test available to clinicians was associated with decreased antibiotic use (OR 0.20, 95% CI 0.05- 0.82).
Conclusions: Influenza virus accounted for almost 50% of acute febrile respiratory illness in this study, but most patients were prescribed antibiotics. Providing rapid influenza test results to clinicians was associated with fewer antibiotic prescriptions, but overall prescription of antibiotics remained high. In this developing country setting, a multi-faceted approach that includes improved access to rapid diagnostic tests may help decrease antibiotic use and combat antimicrobial resistance.
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