Diagnostic testing is the canary in the coal mine for public health. It’s the early warning system to identify diseases in their infancy when there are more treatment options. The purpose of diagnostic testing is to prevent transmission and improve surveillance where outbreaks may be occurring.
Diagnostic testing provides more accurate and rapid identification of infectious diseases, leading to more targeted responses. Without diagnostic tests, authorities may have to rely on reports from healthcare facilities, syndromic surveillance, environmental testing of air and water quality, or surface testing for the presence of pathogens. However, these measures will be less accurate, thereby slower in identifying potential threats.
Diagnostic testing will identify infected individuals to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. There are multiple tools used to achieve this goal:
1) Molecular tests – used to detect RNA or DNA markers of the pathogen through polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) tests.
2) Antigen tests – seeks proteins on the pathogen’s surface with rapid results. An example would be rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19.
3) Serology tests – identifies antibodies from previous infections. An example would be enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs).
Diagnostic testing is evolving rapidly. The focus is faster results and point-of-care (POC) handheld devices that improve testing access. On-site testing is more convenient and accessible, often eliminates lab testing, and is cost-efficient. In addition, devices are portable and designed to minimize opportunities for contamination with little contact between the administrator and the sample.
Training is critical with POC devices. Accuracy is based on trained individuals administering the test. Improperly performed training may result in questions about test accuracy. Devices are being developed to minimize the margin of error, but they cannot be totally eliminated.
Newer tests can differentiate diseases with common symptoms, so results and treatment are more accurate. “Syndromic” diagnostic tests are helpful when a patient presents with symptoms not specific to a particular condition but rather common to many diseases, i.e., fever. Furthermore, gene editing and biosensors researchers continue to develop testing methods that are transforming diagnostic medicine.
Acceptance of Public Health Guidelines
With these advanced tools at our fingertips, they are only worthwhile if we use the information for the public’s safety. However, during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw much pushback to public health guidance. There is much work to be done to avoid this in the future. Why did we feel so strongly about masking and vaccines?
Reactions to public health can be caused by a lack of trust in our public health authorities, cultural and social issues, concerns about privacy and confidentiality, and history itself. We live in a country where we can voice our opposition and where we take our freedoms seriously. Public health officials must build trust, be accountable, and work to educate the public about the issue at hand.
We must strive to understand and respect the cultural and political differences, social customs, and beliefs that make us each unique.
COVID-19 spotlighted the importance of public health and diagnostic tests to identify and control outbreaks. In the future, access to diagnostic tests that are easy to use, low-cost, and provide fast responses will lessen the need for more drastic public health measures to be taken.
New technology will help Public Health to do a better job and will empower the public to be a critical component of ensuring the safety of our communities.
Foamtec Medical’s swabs are designed to be gentle on the patient to minimize discomfort during the sample collection process. This factor is crucial in improving patient compliance, especially in repeated testing scenarios such as chronic disease monitoring or tracking the spread of infectious diseases. The sterile, cleanroom-laundered foam swabs from Foamtec Medical are also designed to minimize contamination risks. This is essential in ensuring the accuracy of diagnostic tests, as contaminants can cause false results.
The use of our swabs is not limited to a specific type of testing. They can be used in a variety of diagnostic applications, including rapid antigen testing for infectious diseases, genetic testing, and many more. We are dedicated to traceable quality materials for our foam swabs, giving you peace of mind when identifying and controlling the spread of diseases.