David Persing discusses the lessons learnt from the pandemic in terms of the development of diagnostic tests and the management of respiratory viruses. He warns that the need for rapid, sensitive, and definitive results is now even more pressing
The global emergence of COVID-19 has resulted in a radical shift in the management of patients presenting with respiratory and/ or flu-like symptoms of fever, malaise, and myalgias. In the past, such symptoms could have been interpreted as consistent with infection with influenza or respiratory syncytial viruses, but under current conditions, SARS-CoV-2 is often first considered in the differential diagnosis. Currently, a patient with these symptoms is likely to simply take a rapid antigen test, or present at a COVID-19 screening centre for PCR testing.
However, a negative result for COVID-19 could be giving the patient a false sense of security, with their symptoms actually being caused by something serious such as influenza. SARS-CoV-2 has shifted the way the healthcare sector approaches respiratory patients, as well as how the general population reacts to this set of symptoms. This article delves into this changing clinical landscape and explores how the lessons learned from previous viral outbreaks have been applied to create fast and accurate molecular tests that are helping to not only diagnose COVID-19 now, but also to provide “variant-ready” solutions for the detection of SARS-CoV-2, influenza A and B, and other viruses that may cause similar symptoms.
The global burden of respiratory diseases
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