Omicron variant could energise flu testing in 2022
As flu season continues, the new Omicron variant and the need to tackle the flu are creating increased demand on the flu testing market, according to GlobalData.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought numerous changes to the world and everyday life, not least of which is the surprising effect it had on suppressing the 2020-2021 flu season. Surprisingly, public health measures aimed at flattening the curve of Covid-19 infections virtually dismantled last year’s flu season.
This year, flu season is back in the spotlight and the recent global spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant could further spur changes to the flu testing market initially precipitated by the pandemic last year.
While each flu season is distinct, global cases typically rise the most between October and March. This meant significant disruption to the flu testing market, which saw a decline in standard flu tests of 67% for this period.
Instead, diagnostic tests aimed at testing for both Covid-19 and flu from a single sample, the so-called ‘multi-parameter’ test, comprise a global market now worth $1.54bn. Multi-parameter tests now make up nearly 84% of diagnostic tests for influenza in US hospitals and the rise of the Omicron Covid-19 variant could further fuel demand for these tests.
The rise of Omicron threatens to extend the course of this pandemic and the return of flu season further complicates the situation for clinicians.
The earliest scientific studies addressing the transmissibility and virulence of Omicron paint a picture of a virus that spreads more easily, but that causes relatively mild symptoms compared to earlier variants like Delta. According to a flu report from the CDC, flu season in the US is kicking off with positive cases 20 times higher than this time last year, which will put further pressure on making an accurate diagnosis for individuals presenting to clinics and hospitals this year.
The war against Covid-19 has changed with the arrival of antivirals like Lagevrio and Paxlovid, but outside of high-risk patients, treatments will follow diagnosis.
Real-world data on the spread of Omicron has shown that many positively identified cases have been ‘incidental,’ where patients seeking care for other reasons happen to also test positive for the new Covid-19 variant. Furthermore, pre-print studies have hinted that Omicron may be more likely to evade immunity from prior Covid-19 infection.
The rise of Omicron threatens to extend the course of this pandemic and the return of flu season further complicates the situation for clinicians. Multi-parameter testing will continue to aid clinicians in guiding treatment options this flu season while also supporting Covid-19 diagnoses.
While in vitro diagnostics manufacturers continue to develop tests specifically aimed at Omicron, the existing multi-parameter flu tests will continue to provide critical information for clinicians this winter.