Ellume’s digital diagnostic devices
Ellume’s digital diagnostic devices

Test yourself for flu on the blower

A BAN on home flu tests could be lifted to let Australians use a world-first smartphone diagnosis invented by a Brisbane doctor.

Emergency medic Sean Parsons has won the backing of global health giant Glaxo-SmithKline for his DIY influenza test, which is in clinical trials in the US.

But Australians cannot use the hi-tech test because federal regulations ban self-testing for influenza.

Now federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has asked the Therapeutic Goods Administration to consider lifting the ban.

"The minister has asked the TGA to review the current regulations for self-testing devices to ensure consumers have access and choice to use all clinically appropriate testing methods for the flu and other infections conditions,'' a spokeswoman for Mr Hunt told The Sunday Mail.

Dr Parsons has developed a new flu test that lets patients self-diagnose by taking a nasal swab that is tested on the spot, with results analysed via a smartphone app within 10 minutes.

The results are faster than traditional lab-based pathology tests, which can take days.

Dr Parsons got the idea while working in the emergency department at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra and Wesley hospitals during the swine flu epidemic in 2009.


Ellume founder Sean Parsons
Ellume founder Sean Parsons



He set up a Brisbane-based research company Ellume, which manufactures digital diagnostic devices to diagnose the flu quickly and easily.

"We wouldn't be allowed to sell it in Australia because notifiable diseases can't be home-tested,'' Dr Parsons said.

"The primary focus for us is approval in the US market, which is 50 times bigger than the Australian market."

Australia is in the grip of its worst flu season in a decade, with influenza infecting 13,000 Queenslanders and killing at least 25 so far this year.

More than 1000 Queenslanders have been hospitalised with the flu, with 93 in intensive care.

Rapid testing for the flu would give more patients the chance to take antiviral drugs before getting too sick and needing to go to hospital.

Home tests for notifiable infectious diseases, including influenza, have been banned in Australia since 2010.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration prefers that doctors order tests so they can ensure patients are promptly treated.

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