Respiratory Pathogen Molecular Panel Testing

Last Literature Review: May 2019 Last Update:

Preferred test to confirm respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza A, or influenza B in general inpatients and RSV in adults.

  • Preferred test for evaluating severely immunocompromised (eg, BMT) or critically ill (ICU) patients with respiratory symptoms.
  • Test detects influenza A, influenza B, RSV, human metapneumovirus, human rhinovirus, and adenovirus.
  • Detects and differentiates parainfluenza 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Viral respiratory tract infections are the most common diseases affecting humans worldwide. Respiratory viruses can be associated with both self-limiting upper respiratory tract infections (eg, the common cold) and more severe lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) (eg, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pneumonitis, pneumonia). LRTIs are a major cause of hospitalization, morbidity, and mortality in infants and the elderly and are associated with significant disease burden.

Disease Overview


  • Viral infections cause approximately 80% of respiratory tract disease; mixed infections account for approximately 20% infection in adults, 60% in children
  • Symptomatic disease varies by viral type and patient age
    • Highest rates occur in young and elderly populations with widely varying outcomes
  • Seasonal influenza causes a large proportion of viral respiratory disease
    • Median incidence of approximately 8% in U.S. 2010 to 2016


Symptoms general occur within 1-3 days of exposure and last 7-14 days.

Location Symptoms
Upper respiratory infections

Nasal congestion



Sore throat




Decreased appetitea


Lower respiratory infectionsb

Worsening cough

Shortness of breath

Focal pain



aEspecially in children

bOverlap with upper infection

cOlder adults

Test Interpretation


Negative result

  • Does not rule out the presence of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) inhibitors in patient specimen
  • Does not detect assay-specific nucleic acid in concentrations below level of detection by assay