Navigating a shifting disease landscape

Dr. Andrew Birnie, Dr. Paul Oladimeji and Gemma Stokes highlight the difficulties of adapting diagnostic testing to new clinical threats and ever-changing disease targets, and discuss the modern approaches that are future-proofing the way that we manage respiratory diseases

Patient management during the COVID-19 pandemic was driven by the development of rapid and accurate diagnostic tests that aided the prompt isolation of infected individuals to curb disease transmission. The associated social distancing measures were also effective at curtailing a range of other respiratory diseases, including influenza A, influenza B and RSV. As these precautions have eased, the resurgence of seasonal illnesses has placed additional strain on healthcare systems, underscoring the pressing need for discriminatory assays capable of identifying a range of pathogens. Fortunately, leading diagnostics companies have responded to this challenge by developing multiplexed testing kits to differentiate between prevalent respiratory illnesses

Only a few years ago, surging cases of COVID-19 threatened to overwhelm healthcare systems worldwide. Reliable testing procedures, novel vaccines and widespread public biosecurity measures were essential to restrict the initial rapid spread of the virus, and society has now adapted to a ‘new normal’ in which SARS-CoV-2 is just another condition to be managed, alongside a suite of other common seasonal respiratory illnesses. However, our acclimatisation to a changing disease landscape would not have been possible without collaborative efforts from clinicians, bioinformaticians and diagnostics companies to develop and implement surveillance strategies, detect genomic changes in quickly evolving viral pathogens, and continually adapt their approaches to tackle a range of diseases.

The ongoing viral evolution

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