Nucleic Acid-Based Sensing Techniques for Diagnostics and Surveillance of Influenza

Influenza virus poses a threat to global health by causing seasonal outbreaks as well as three pandemics in the 20th century. In humans, disease is primarily caused by influenza A and B viruses, while influenza C virus causes mild disease mostly in children. Influenza D is an emerging virus found in cattle and pigs. To mitigate the morbidity and mortality associated with influenza, rapid and accurate diagnostic tests need to be deployed. However, the high genetic diversity displayed by influenza viruses presents a challenge to the development of a robust diagnostic test. Nucleic acid-based tests are more accurate than rapid antigen tests for influenza and are therefore better candidates to be used in both diagnostic and surveillance applications. Here, we review various nucleic acid-based techniques that have been applied towards the detection of influenza viruses in order to evaluate their utility as both diagnostic and surveillance tools. We discuss both traditional as well as novel methods to detect influenza viruses by covering techniques that require nucleic acid amplification or direct detection of viral RNA as well as comparing advantages and limitations for each method. There has been substantial progress in the development of nucleic acid-based sensing techniques for the detection of influenza virus. However, there is still an urgent need for a rapid and reliable influenza diagnostic test that can be used at point-of-care in order to enhance responsiveness to both seasonal and pandemic influenza outbreaks.