Moving Forward, Combo Tests Will Be the Answer

Kits created by companies like Cepheid and bioMérieux will aid in the testing and treatment of viral infections in the future.

With the upcoming flu season, there are many concerns surrounding a potential uptick in cases from the significant dip that was experienced last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts have cited multiple factors which may contribute to this, like kids going back to school, as well as the declining use of masks and the rolling back of other precautionary measures implemented due to the pandemic.

In past flu seasons, there was not as much worry about the possibility of death. However, because of COVID-19 those worries are now increased and there will be a need to test for multiple viral infections to be sure of a correct course of action and treatment.

“We in the laboratory are preparing for another big boom in testing,” Geoffrey Baird, a board certified pathologist at the University of Washington said. “Even if people are vaccinated, they’re going to wonder, ‘Am I the breakthrough case?’”

Luckily, there are now many kinds of tests which can detect multiple viruses being implemented at thousands of hospitals all across the country.

One such test, called a quad test, was created by Cepheid, a California based molecular diagnostic company.

Late this past September, Cepheid received an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their quad test Xpert Xpress, which can detect COVID-19, Flu A, Flu B and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

Unlike antigen tests, these quad tests look for viral genetic material using a polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method much more accurate than the antigen way.

Other companies, including Roche and bioMérieux have developed similar tests that detect multiple viruses. In fact, bioMérieux created a test that can detect the coronavirus as well as 21 other viruses and bacteria at once.

These tests, though they have some issues, like the potential to miss a bacterial infection, they will largely benefit physicians and patients.

Younger and Healthier people might only need a quad test to know which therapy they will need, while people with underlying conditions may need a test which can detect more than 4 viruses.

“I think there was always this perception of ‘Oh, whatever it is, it’s not going to kill us,” Alexandra Valsamakis, head of clinical development and medical affairs at Roche Diagnostics Solutions said. “There’s this need to actually know what’s there [now], more than there ever was before.”