COVID-19 – Testing, treating and transmission

April 22, 2020

Every day more facts and figures about COVID-19 are being published, along with updated forecasts and best guesses of when the world might return to a sense of normal life.

Recent COVID-19-related statistics show – courtesy of Johns Hopkins’ Dashboard tracker – the countries that were affected the worst by the virus initially are now starting to show improvement by way of lower numbers of confirmed cases and deaths. As this happens, the rest of the world is carefully watching these countries and hoping for a similar timeframe until their own statistics improve. One factor that is cause for concern, however, is the possibility of reinfection, which has the potential to further impact countries that lack the medical and clinical ability to sustain a second wave of infection.

With the arrival of COVID-19 in the United States, government agencies such as the CDC, FDA and WHO asserted rapid tests and fast results were needed in order to confirm and quarantine suspected cases of the virus as it became a pandemic. The clinical lab industry took this request to heart, with many diagnostics companies diverting key scientific staff members from current projects to COVID-19 test development.

The result of this “call to action” for COVID-19 tests, as per the FDA’s website, is more than 270 test developers who plan to submit Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests to the FDA, and a notification that more than 150 labs have already begun testing per policies set forth by the FDA. As of April 8, there were 32 EUAs issued for diagnostic tests. In this issue of MLO, you can find a table on page 34 that lists all tests approved for EUA by the FDA.

As with many diseases, screening and regular testing can lead to earlier treatments and a better prognosis. As COVID-19 testing ramped up in the U.S, only patients with a host of symptoms present were being tested. That process was complicated by long test results times and asymptomatic patients who continued to circulate in public, shedding the disease.

However, with the advent of drive-thru testing sites, as well as RT-PCR and serology tests that are identifying cases that were not confirmed prior, COVID-19 is being detected earlier in many suspected cases. The earlier confirmation helps limit exposure by quarantining confirmed cases to prevent additional spreading of the disease.

As diagnostics companies work to develop more tests that offer almost-immediate results that can confirm or refute COVID-19 infection, we remain focused on the number of confirmed cases in our cities and wait for the day that this coronavirus is a thing of the past. Until then, I encourage everyone to continue to take appropriate safety precautions – both at home and at work – to protect yourself and your families.

I welcome your comments, questions and opinions – please send them to me at [email protected].