Test could confine 'manflu' to history

Richard AlleyneTelegraph Media Group Limited

Men beware – scientists have come up with a test to prove whether they really are suffering from flu or just a cold.

Researchers say that they will soon be able to differentiate between "manflu" and the real thing through a simple blood test.

They claim that looking at an individuals blood make-up can be used to quickly diagnose and treat ill patients.

While the breakthrough could predict the onset of a pandemic, it could also spell the end of manflu – the phenomenon in which men exaggerate the effects of a cold in order to get more sympathy.

Dr Aimee Zaas, at Duke University Medical Center, North Carolina, said the technique could help cut down on the overuse of antibiotics.

"Current methods for accurate diagnosis are time and labour intensive and are not always accurate," said Dr Zaas.

"This means GPs are sometimes overcautious and may prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily, for viral infections.

"During a pandemic, this has real consequences as there is an increased risk of spreading infection."

The study, which was presented at the Society for General Microbiology's conference in Nottingham, looked at the blood of otherwise healthy individuals who had been exposed to respiratory infections including rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold and influenza.

The team found each viral infection stimulated the body to produce a very specific set of immune molecules that could be detected in the blood.

Recording the distinct blood signatures for each virus in a database and matching them against blood samples from other ill patients pinpointed the cause of disease with more than 95pc accuracy.

Respiratory infections, including colds and flu are a common reason for seeking medical help. As Dr. Zaas highlighted.

Dr Zaas explained how her test works completely differently to current diagnostic tests as it analyses each individual's immune response to infection, rather than the actual microorganism responsible.

"We effectively look at the imprint in the blood that the virus makes, which is as individual as a signature," she said.

"Not only is this much more accurate than traditional testing, it also works much faster as it can be done through a simple blood test."

If developed further, the findings could be used in emergency departments and primary care clinics to diagnose respiratory viral illness.

"This could allow patients quicker access to antiviral drugs, but could also give an accurate warning of an forthcoming pandemic," said Dr Zaas.