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Disease prevention and treatment

How to test and trace a virus we haven’t discovered yet?

Early in the epidemic, it became evident that we'd have to test a lot to get it under control. If enough tests are available, affected people can be identified and isolated, greatly reducing the spread of the disease. And you may do so without requiring extensive contact tracking or quarantine measures for those who have been exposed but are unsure whether or not they are sick, reducing the social and economic consequences of a pandemic.

South Korea accomplished just that from the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, flattening the curve and keeping case counts low primarily by constant testing and inquiry. The United States could have done the same. In a matter of days, it could have approved PCR and fast antigen tests for the disease, ensuring that they were mass-produced and easily available.

Within a month of US officials becoming aware of the initial outbreak, the US could have begun sending out home rapid tests in February 2020. It could have gone even further than South Korea: hospitals could have used genomic sequencers to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in patients, triggering an early warning that the sickness had spread to the United States. In an exponentially spreading pandemic, speed is crucial, and the country might have moved quickly.

The United States did not take those steps, and the people who reside there have suffered as a result. However, the United States can and must do better next time. A reinvigorated commitment to testing, both in-hospital genomic surveillance, which can help catch and smother a possible pandemic infection as it emerges, and low-cost antigen testing, which can help manage a pandemic once it's arrived, is an important aspect of any pandemic prevention strategy (or even stop it if caught early enough).

Maintaining that commitment necessitates further funds. It also necessitates a shift in government policy that allows manufacturers to move much more quickly.

Emerging pandemics can be detected early using genomic testing

In the context of Covid-19, "testing" usually refers to diagnostic testing, such as nasal and throat swabs, PCR, and antigen tests. However, those diagnostics take time to develop, and we need to start monitoring disease outbreaks sooner rather than later. Fortunately, with today's technology, we can start tracking a potentially hazardous infection as soon as it spreads. Genomic sequencing holds this promise.

Clinical diagnostics is a term that refers to the process of identifying sickness in a specific person. That is, of course, critical in the event of a pandemic. But we also want to know where the virus is spreading, especially if it may infect some individuals without making them sick, as Covid-19 did.

More funds for tests and a better regulatory approach are required

Money matters too. Carpenter, a Harvard professor, believes it is critical to ensure that the agency has the resources to assess tests.  “What we need most are two things: 1) funding for the test regulation outfit at FDA that rivals that of the drug-reviewing division, and 2) clearer guidance on what passes the bar,” in an email, he stated.

If America's large investment in vaccine research and production in 2020 was its greatest Covid-era accomplishment, the country's refusal to do the same for testing was the country's worst error. A significant investment in genomic sequencing now, as well as stronger funding and regulatory framework for diagnostic testing in the case of a future pandemic, could prevent the United States from making the same mistake.


Content created and supplied by: PenRec (via Opera News )

Covid-19 South Korea US United States


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