Saturday, April 20, 2024

HIQA Releases Guidance for Multiplex Antigen Near-Patient Tests for Acute Respiratory Infections

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The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has issued recommendations to the Minister for Health regarding the use of multiplex antigen near-patient tests for identifying respiratory tract infections, including COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, in residential and primary care environments.

This guidance from HIQA comes in response to a request from the Department of Health and aims to provide an overview of the potential use of multiplex antigen near-patient tests for acute respiratory infections, which are administered by healthcare workers close to the patient and can simultaneously screen for multiple respiratory viruses. HIQA conducted a review of national and international evidence regarding the utilization of these tests in residential and primary care settings.

The review conducted by HIQA revealed limited research on the subject, with just one research study and two international recommendations available concerning the application of multiplex antigen near-patient tests in these settings. As a result, the available evidence suggests that while these tests offer speed, cost-effectiveness, and ease of administration, there is uncertainty regarding their benefits, drawbacks, feasibility, and acceptability for use in residential and primary care settings.

Michelle O’Neill, Deputy Director of Health Technology Assessment at HIQA, highlighted the challenges related to the relatively recent introduction of multiplex antigen near-patient testing technology. She stated, “Multiplex antigen near-patient testing is still a relatively new technology, and so the evidence on any benefits of its use are limited. While these tests are cheap and provide results quickly, their effectiveness at accurately detecting infection is unclear.”

O’Neill also emphasized the need for further studies to be conducted in primary and residential care environments to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy and clinical utility of multiplex antigen near-patient tests before any decisions are made regarding their use in these healthcare settings.

In conclusion, HIQA’s guidance underscores the importance of additional research to address the gaps in knowledge surrounding the effectiveness and suitability of multiplex antigen near-patient tests in the context of respiratory infections in residential and primary care settings. This advice serves as a call for further studies and evidence-based decision-making to ensure the appropriate application of these tests in healthcare practice.

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