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Testing times ahead

What’s happening? Abu Dhabi-based G42 Healthcare has partnered with South Korean biotech firm Seegene to provide mobile laboratory stations across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The Seegene Mobile Station can conduct up to 2,000 molecular tests and diagnoses each day, covering 225 pathogens across 10 criteria. The platform could prove crucial in helping health services cover areas where epidemics spread easily, with the ability to be set up within days of arriving via ship or lorry, allowing the station to be placed in crowded areas for maximum efficiency. (MobiHealthNews)

Why does this matter? We’ve become accustomed to regular Covid-19 testing during the course of the pandemic, be it at a pop-up site or in our own homes. What’s interesting about Seegene’s mobile lab is that it goes beyond Covid-19 to cover a broad range of pathogens. This supports local health services and also provides people with access to testing they may not otherwise have. Additionally, it could help with viral surveillance to target disease risk hotspots.

While Seegene has not said what tests its mobile lab will provide, the company’s product pipeline includes diagnostics for respiratory infections, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human papillomavirus (HPV), tuberculosis, sepsis, meningitis and drug resistance.

Going home – There’s an abundance of at-home diagnostics for all kinds of health conditions available, so will regular testing for other infections be a way of life in the near future? Perhaps in future flu seasons, people will be asked to take frequent tests for the virus regardless of if they have been vaccinated or not. Those who are sexually active are already encouraged to take regular STI tests so at-home kits could increase early detection of infection. This would help reduce spread and give an individual the chance to seek treatment before serious damage occurs.

Positive impact – Not only is at-home testing convenient because there’s no need to book appointments and travel to a clinic, it can also reduce feelings of embarrassment surrounding STIs. These include HPV, which can cause cervical cancer in women and is detected via smear tests. These are recommended every few years, but unfortunately, some women feel uncomfortable about the procedure, which means they are reluctant to make appointments. Self-sampling for HPV could really be a life-saver among this group and others who face barriers for various reasons.

Negative result – The downside is that many at-home kits come at a cost, and they aren’t always cheap. This creates problems for people unable to afford them and leaves them with little choice but to attend a clinic or face potentially worsening health problems. Also, if testing is a requirement for a particular reason, such as an event or travel, then these individuals would be left behind. If regular testing for various conditions is to be part of our lives going forward, this is an issue that will certainly need addressing.

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Nicola Watts

Health Care Curator

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