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Diagnostic accuracy of point-of-care tests in acute community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections. A systematic review and meta-analysis

Gentilotti E, De Nardo P, Cremonini E, Górska A, Mazzaferri F, Canziani LM, Hellou MM, Olchowski Y, Poran I, Leeflang M, Villacian J, Goossens H, Paul M, Tacconelli E

Background: Point-of-care tests could be essential in differentiating bacterial and viral acute community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections and driving antibiotic stewardship in the community.

Objectives: To assess diagnostic test accuracy of point-of-care tests in community settings for acute community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections.

Data sources: Multiple databases (MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, Open Gray) from inception to 31 May 2021, without language restrictions.

Study eligibility criteria: Diagnostic test accuracy studies involving patients at primary care, outpatient clinic, emergency department and long-term care facilities with a clinical suspicion of acute community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections. The comparator was any test used as a comparison to the index test. In order not to limit the study inclusion, the comparator was not defined a priori.

Assessment of risk of bias: Four investigators independently extracted data, rated risk of bias, and assessed the quality using QUADAS-2.

Methods of data synthesis: The measures of diagnostic test accuracy were calculated with 95% CI.

Results: A total of 421 studies addressed at least one point-of-care test. The diagnostic performance of molecular tests was higher compared with that of rapid diagnostic tests for all the pathogens studied. The accuracy of stand-alone signs and symptoms or biomarkers was poor. Lung ultrasound showed high sensitivity and specificity (90% for both) for the diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia. Rapid antigen-based diagnostic tests for influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae had sub-optimal sensitivity (range 49%-84%) but high specificity (>80%).

Discussion: Physical examination and host biomarkers are not sufficiently reliable as stand-alone tests to differentiate between bacterial and viral pneumonia. Lung ultrasound shows higher accuracy than chest X-ray for bacterial pneumonia at emergency department. Rapid antigen-based diagnostic tests cannot be considered fully reliable because of high false-negative rates. Overall, molecular tests for all the pathogens considered were found to be the most accurate.

Keywords: Antibiotic stewardship; Community settings; Community-acquired lower respiratory tract infections; Point-of-care tests.

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