The emergence of COVID-19 quickly brought diagnostics into the forefront of healthcare discussions. One of the key strategies to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases is to stop the silent spread of disease early. In the spring of 2020, health practitioners, thought leaders, and governments quickly came together to collaborate on the best means to minimise the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and keep people safe.
The spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections by people who show no symptoms is a significant contributor to ongoing COVID-19 transmission. A study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that transmission of COVID-19 by people without symptoms is estimated to be responsible for more than half of all infected cases1.
With the use of highly sensitive diagnostic tests, the ability to quickly, accurately, and reliably detect SARS-CoV-2 in potentially exposed adults and children can help limit the spread of disease. There are two main technologies utilised for detection of SARS-CoV-2: real-time PCR and rapid antigen detection. It is important to understand which tests are most suitable to use depending on their intended purpose. Both technologies provide valuable solutions in different situations along the patient journey.
The accelerated development of less invasive diagnostic solutions also provided patients with the option to collect their own nasal sample either in the clinician office or collection site for PCR testing or in the comfort of their own home for antigen testing. This helps to expand testing capabilities. Through reduced physical contact, this method of testing can help to decrease the risk of exposure to the virus for healthcare professionals, communities, and family and friends.
Expanding highly sensitive diagnostic testing for infectious diseases, including people who are at risk of exposure but do not show symptoms, can help keep communities safe and ensure the appropriate treatment - if any - is prescribed. Concurrently, diagnosing infections based on the presentation of clinical signs and symptoms may result in antibiotics being inappropriately prescribed2. The ability to generate confident results quickly can enable earlier decisions about treatment needs.
Johansson MA, Quandelacy TM, Kada S, et al. SARS-CoV-2 Transmission From People Without COVID-19 Symptoms. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(1):e2035057. 2021 Jan 4. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.35057
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