COVID-19 surges have reinforced the need for quick manufacturing of testing and surveillance resources to meet unanticipated increases in demand. The equal importance of ensuring the resulting solutions are accurate and reliable, however, can’t be overlooked.
A collection of technical posters from recent scientific meetings highlights key analyses validating COVID-19 tests used within communities, while also summarizing studies of the surveillance technologies that empowered global monitoring and mitigation efforts in the face of mutations. While this work played an important role in verifying that available tests were suitable for managing past COVID-19 outbreaks and helping public health bodies stay ahead of a dynamic situation, the subsequent results and learnings will also inform future solutions as SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate and the lingering threat of other viral pathogens hangs in the air.
Specificity and sensitivity analyses help identify the most reliable test options to drive testing protocols
If a person has COVID-19, what are the chances a test will confirm their diagnosis? How much SARS-CoV-2 virus must be present to trigger a positive result? Can someone test positive for COVID-19 when they really just have the common cold?
The answers to these key questions lie in a test’s sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity and specificity studies are essential to validating test performance and ensuring patients and providers can trust the results they receive, as accurate testing promotes informed personal and clinical decision making and helps to slow the spread of COVID-19.
While test reliability varies depending on manufacturer and test technology, extensive analyses of lab-based PCR tests like Thermo Fisher Scientific’s TaqPath COVID-19 Diagnostic testing solution* have shown that this method consistently delivers high sensitivity and specificity results, making it the gold standard for COVID-19 testing and the preferred test type for many test protocols. As a real-world example of PCR’s reliability, one poster describing a study of workplace mitigation strategies showed weekly PCR testing achieved the best disease control with fewer false positives at the lowest overall cost compared to the other testing strategies.
*For Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) only. For prescription use only. For in vitro diagnostic use.
Accessible surveillance resources can help public health entities efficiently track new variants as viruses evolve
With COVID-19 characteristics changing as the SARS-CoV-2 virus evolves, tracking mutations and variants of concern has become an important part of understanding the spread of disease and implementing appropriate measures to limit the risk of transmission.
Analyses of genotyping assays like Thermo Fisher’s TaqMan SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Panel** have shown that these assays can allow for efficient, accurate, and cost-effective assessment of virus samples to identify known variants of concern. While whole genome sequencing remains critical to detecting new mutations and variants, these faster solutions can facilitate more accessible and expansive surveillance efforts to help gain control of outbreaks more quickly.
While some experts believe community spread of COVID-19 could soon reach endemic levels , others warn that the virus may never completely go away and will remain susceptible to mutations indefinitely . Even after case counts decline, global health organizations will need to track SARS-CoV-2 over time to maintain understanding of the viral genetics and prevent future pandemic-level outbreaks. In a post-pandemic world, reliable surveillance efforts are likely to remain critical for many years to come.
To review more comparison and validation studies for COVID-19 detection and surveillance resources, download our selection of posters from recent scientific meetings including AACC, ECCMID, and AMP.
**For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.