Rapid diagnostic tests for infectious diseases, with a turnaround time of fewer than two hours, are promising tools that could improve patient care, antimicrobial stewardship, and infection prevention in the emergency department (ED) setting. However, they have limitations to their use, said Dr. Fouzia Jabeen, Consultant Microbiologist and Virologist at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, during a discussion on the third day of Medlab Middle East Congress 2023 in Dubai. She delivered a lecture on ‘Rapid diagnostics in clinical microbiology.’
“As we continue to study, rapid diagnostic tests are actually a very cost-effective and useful way of conducting tests. But they have limitations, too. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) are designed for specific targets, so it is important to know that they cannot be used for all kinds of testing. These tests do not provide biological material for additional studies, etc., susceptibility testing, or typing, which are crucial ways of understanding more about the vaccine strains. All these aspects are not part of this panel,” Dr. Jabeen said.
In the context of infectious diseases, the term rapid diagnostic test refers to lateral-flow, immunochromatographic tests used to detect certain infections. More generally, such assays are described as point-of-care (POC) tests. It is the focus on performance time and simplicity that defines RDT or POC.
RDT is also not helpful in the case of ICU patients that may also have a lot of other comorbidities. “You have cycles of infections and there are not many details to understand which infections might recur,” she added.
Dr. Jabeen added: “In summary, these molecular panels are very useful and frequently cost-effective, which makes a huge financial impact. However, there are certain considerations and it's important for validation and quality control tests to interpret the findings of the molecular assays. More diagnostics are needed to put these tests to judicious use.”
Technological advances in clinical microbiology laboratories are transforming the world of medicine. Techniques such as molecular diagnostics, digital microbiology, and mass spectrometry are reducing the generation time of the test results, which has a significant clinical impact.
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