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Infectious-Disease Experts Call for Better Tests to Improve Patient Care

Fast, inexpensive testing could reduce erroneous use of antibiotics (November 7)

Despite advances in diagnostic technology for infectious diseases, there is an urgent need for tests that are easy to use, that identify the bug causing an infection, and that provide results faster than current tests, according to a report from the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) published Nov. 7 in a special supplement to Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The report outlines recommendations to spur research and the development of new diagnostics, and to encourage their use in patient care and public health. Specifically, the IDSA is calling for:

  • Fiscal incentives and streamlined regulatory pathways to make it financially and logistically viable for companies to perform diagnostics research and development in areas of greatest unmet need
  • Improved clinical research infrastructure to accelerate diagnostics development — for example, providing critically needed specimens that researchers and companies can use to make sure their tests provide accurate results
  • Funding for outcomes research to demonstrate the clinical value of diagnostic tests, increasing the likelihood they will be used by doctors and hospitals
  • Appropriate reimbursement, additional supporting infrastructure (such as information technology), and education for those who would use the diagnostics

According to the IDSA, a delayed diagnosis puts clinicians at a disadvantage in treating infections. For example, half of patients who see their doctors for acute upper respiratory infections receive antibiotics — even though most of those infections are viral and do not benefit from such treatment. Currently, there is no test that can easily, accurately, and inexpensively help physicians determine the cause of such an infection.

Better, faster tests could guide doctors to the correct treatment more quickly and could significantly reduce the number of patients receiving antibiotics erroneously, which contributes to antibiotic resistance, the IDSA says.

Source: IDSA; November 7, 2013.

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