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“Power in the Hands of Patients”: Creating an Accessible Monkeypox Diagnostic

It’s not enough to have accurate infectious disease diagnostics, they must be accessible to the patients most affected.

In May 2022, cases of monkeypox virus began to be reported in nonendemic countries. “Frankly, this presentation of monkeypox is arguably a novel presentation,” said Paritosh Prasad, MD. “The current outbreak is one that’s different than how it has presented in the past.”

Prasad is an infectious disease doctor and intensive care doctor at the University of Rochester and the director of global health for VisualDx. “In the past several months, we’ve been working very actively on monkeypox identification and disseminating knowledge about it,” he said.

VisualDx has been working to develop image analysis of monkeypox to aid in its diagnosis. At the recent IDWeek conference, Prasad and his team were actively meeting with potential collaborators to source images and improve the accuracy of this technology.

The necessity of this work, Prasad says, is in the stigma surrounding monkeypox. All infectious diseases are marred by stigma, and it means that the populations who are disproportionately affected by monkeypox are perceived negatively.

“When you have the confluence of a disease process that creates fear, that creates stigma…diagnosis becomes incredibly difficult,” said Prasad, explaining this is why it is vital to create tools “that not only aid in that diagnosis, but tools that could even be placed in the hands of patients.”

It’s not enough to have reliable diagnostics, Prasad argues, if these are inaccessible for patients. “The population that’s currently facing the majority of the burden of disease is classically the population that doesn’t have the access to care.”