Is that bothersome sniffle a sign of the flu or something else? Answering that question could soon be as easy as blowing your nose, with the development of the “Respirio Flu Test” (RFT), one of four finalists in the Janssen HaTCH Technology Challenge.

The first non-invasive ultra-sensitive test for flu in adults and children, the RFT takes less than 20 minutes to detect all strains of human influenza (including bird flu and swine flu). A positive test displays a unique code which plans to give patients access to medical certification of infection and a prescription for anti-viral medications. A negative result comes with advice on symptomatic relief. Advice on when to seek expert care is provided regardless of the test result.

Dr Sean Parsons, from Ellume in Brisbane, says he realised patients would appreciate a good flu test while working as a doctor in emergency.  Dr Parsons saw many people admitted to hospital with complications from influenza that could have been avoided with earlier diagnosis and treatment in the community.  “Most of them didn’t need to be admitted to hospital for complications of influenza, but they did want to know what was making them sick and understand what they could do to get better sooner,” he says.

The technology utilises a new nanoparticle with exceptional fluorescent properties for enhanced detection of analytes in a sample of nasal discharge. Dr Parsons says using the test is simple: open the test, blow your nose and slide an orange zip at the bottom.

Judging Notes:  “This would be a game changer in primary care and the emergency room environment. Equally, the availability of it in a pharmacy environment would be incredibly powerful to help keep cases of the flu out of community health care environments. We didn’t have a rapid diagnosis test for swine flu and that could have helped reduce its rapid spread.”