Acute respiratory tract infections are a significant burden on healthcare services. Here, Carolyne Horner considers an alternative approach to diagnosis in which a change in human immune response is the focus of detection.
Acute respiratory tract infections (aRTIs) are common. Occurring throughout the year, aRTIs are typically associated with a seasonal increase during the autumn/winter months (October–March).1
A wide range of bacteria and viruses cause aRTIs; viruses being the most common aetiology.2 Commonly spread by the airborne route and by touching surfaces that have come into contact with infectious aerosols and respiratory droplets, aRTIs are highly contagious and reinfection is common (Fig 1).3
Characteristically, aRTIs have a sudden onset and relatively short duration. Most upper RTIs are mild, self-limiting and resolve within one to two weeks. On the other hand, lower RTIs, such as pneumonia, may be more severe, take longer for symptoms to resolve, and require healthcare intervention (Table 1).4
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