St. George’s Hospital is coping well under the enormous pressures of the winter flu season thanks to a new rapid test that has enabled the microbiology and virology laboratories and the infection control team to offer round-the-clock services. The Xpert Flu test, which runs on Cepheid’s GeneXpert System, simultaneously detects and differentiates Flu A, Flu B, and H1N1 (swine flu) virus in just over one hour, knocking up to 24 hours off the standard waiting time.

Hospitals in the UK have been on red alert to the 2009 swine flu which has accounted for the majority of 112 flu-related deaths since October. At present, there are around 800 people with flu in intensive care in the UK and St. George’s is currently testing around 20 flu patients a day on average and has also been testing specimens sent from patients at other hospitals in southwest London.

The diagnostic kit that St. George’s would normally have used to test patients for flu would have only been run once a day as it requires a number of samples to be run in batches. As such, patients and staff could be waiting up to or sometimes more than 24 hours for a definite confirmation and would therefore not have been able to make any isolation or treatment decisions in that time. Xpert Flu is the first test that can be run ‘on-demand’ and therefore helps the clinicians to make real-time medical decisions 24-hours a day.

Dr Peter Riley, Consultant Microbiologist and Clinical Lead with the Department of Microbiology at St. George’s Hospital, comments: “The Flu Xpert has enabled our clinicians to make critical treatment decisions very quickly. As a result, the hospital is better equipped to effectively and efficiently cope with the surge in admittances over the Christmas period. The lab has been conducting tests on all patients with suspected flu and where swine flu has been detected, which has allowed us to isolate and begin treating patients in just over an hour. Furthermore, this new test means we can rapidly identify those patients who do not have flu so that further investigations into the cause of the patient’s symptoms can commence immediately.”

Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please contact contact the communications unit on 020 8725 5151 or email Outside working hours, please page us by calling St George’s 07659 146548 and leave a message for pager SG548.
  2. About the GeneXpert® System Molecular Diagnostic Platform
    Cepheid’s GeneXpert System is a closed, self-contained, fully-integrated and automated platform that represents a paradigm shift in the automation of molecular analysis, producing accurate results in a timely manner with minimal risk of contamination. The GeneXpert System is the only system to combine on-board sample preparation with real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) amplification and detection functions for fully integrated and automated nucleic acid analysis. The system is designed to purify, concentrate, detect and identify targeted nucleic acid sequences thereby delivering answers directly from unprocessed samples. Modular in design, the GeneXpert System has a variety of configurations to meet the broad range of testing demands of any clinical environment.
  3. For further information on the GeneXpert® System Molecular Diagnostic Platform please contact:
    Laura Larsen
    Schwartz Communications
    T: 020 8973 2630