Assessing the potential of upper respiratory tract point-of-care testing: a systematic review of the prognostic significance of upper respiratory tract microbes

H. V. Thornton, K. M.E. Turner, S. Harrison, A. Hammond, C. Hawcroft, A. D. Hay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Microbial point-of-care testing (POCT) has potential to revolutionize clinical care. Understanding the prognostic value of microbes identified from the upper respiratory tract (a convenient sampling site) is a necessary first step to understand potential for upper respiratory tract POCTs in assisting antimicrobial treatment decisions for respiratory infections (RTIs). The aim was to investigate the relationship between upper respiratory tract microbial detection and disease prognosis, including effects of antimicrobial use. Methods: Data sources were the MEDLINE and Embase databases. Study eligibility criteria consisted of quantitative studies reporting microbiological and prognostic data from patients of all age groups presenting with RTI. Patients presenting to healthcare or research settings with RTI participated. Interventions included upper respiratory tract swab. The methods used were systematic review and meta-analysis. Results: Searches identified 5156 articles, of which 754 were duplicates and 4258 excluded on title or abstract. A total of 144 full texts were screened; 21 articles were retained. Studies reported data for 15 microbes and 26 prognostic measures (390 potential associations). One hundred and seven (27%) associations were investigated statistically, of which 38 (36%) were significant. Most studies reported only prognostic value of test positive results. Meta-analyses suggested hospitalization duration was longer for patients with respiratory syncytial virus than adenovirus and influenza, but significant heterogeneity was observed between studies. Conclusions: A quarter of potential prognostic associations have been investigated. Of these, a third were significant, suggesting considerable potential for POCT. Future research should investigate prognostic value of positive and negative tests, and interactions between test results, use of antimicrobials and microbial resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1339-1346
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases


  • Antibacterial
  • Antimicrobial stewardship
  • Diagnosis
  • Point-of-care test
  • Primary care


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