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It’s time for a home testing revolution

The home testing revolution is coming – and it will change everything writes Alex Sheppard, CEO and Co-Founder of Vatic

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Home testing covid 19

Covid has made diagnostic professionals of us all… now it’s time for a home testing revolution writes Alex Sheppard, CEO and co-founder of Vatic

Home Testing is on the agenda for scientists and manufacturers of lateral flow tests. It is critical that the government invests in the onshoring testing capacity.

Pandemic responses globally have been limited by the capabilities of public bodies to adapt to a complicated public health environment. COVID-19 has highlighted where governments can do more to provide a flexible and scalable backbone to protect populations from the threat of future pandemics. By leveraging fast-moving, on-shored test manufacturing and development capabilities – governments can future-proof public health defences.

One unexpected benefit has emerged from the UK’s testing strategy. Remarkably, we appear to have trained practically the entire UK adult population (and many children too) to professionally administer at home lateral flow diagnostic tests for acute illness.

No one anticipated this as an outcome. Nevertheless, new skills lead to new opportunities. In this instance, there’s an opportunity now to significantly extend our nation’s home testing and diagnostic capabilities in a way that was practically unimaginable pre-pandemic.

Home diagnosis will get easier and easier

Take the ongoing debate around ‘Covid vs Cold or Flu’ and the growing concerns that in the future people may misdiagnose their symptoms. We don’t want people heading into the workplace thinking they have a cold when in fact, they’re Covid positive. Similarly, we don’t want parents infected with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) to misdiagnose it as Covid. RSV is far more dangerous to children, and no vaccine currently exists for it.

So imagine if there were simple home testing kits available for each of the major respiratory diseases. Not tonsil-scratching, sneeze-inducing lateral flow tests, but less invasive technology – like home pregnancy that could quickly and simply deliver an accurate diagnosis.

If this sounds far-fetched, think again.

Firstly, the technology already exists to determine COVID-19 infectiousness within minutes using simple home tests. Covid isn’t going to disappear, and better home testing remains one of the best ways to ensure we can live with the virus – this year, next year, the year after – in a largely disruption-free society.

Secondly, it is not that difficult to adapt the mechanics of this diagnostic technology to focus on other diseases too. By this time next year, a range of different respiratory infections could be safely and accurately diagnosed outside of a hospital or GP surgery – and potentially vastly beyond this and into the proactive monitoring of a wide range of diseases to help us to live healthier lives.

Thirdly, and most importantly, we’ve already cleared the biggest hurdle to introducing home testing and diagnostics – educating people on how to administer them.

Right now, we have better, more accessible, quicker tests coming to market, and we have the knowledge that people can be trusted to do these diagnostics themselves. We really are on the cusp of a home testing revolution.

Home testing won’t be appropriate for every disease, but it immediately offers a clear way forward, providing important health data and advice at home. Finally, we have a chance to break the damaging convention of infectious people routinely incapacitating their colleagues, co-workers or classmates by showing up when they could be staying at home.

Step-change to home testing capabilities

The benefits don’t stop there. From a public health perspective, home testing could alleviate a massive burden on health service resources.

During the pandemic, the Government had to fund an entire nationwide laboratory testing infrastructure – at short notice and tremendous expense. The more that the Government has to invest in ongoing diagnostic testing, the less money and capacity there will be to spend on longer-term preventative strategies – such as readiness for future pandemics.

MPs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark recently explained that “The UK response has combined some big achievements with some big mistakes. It is vital to learn from both to ensure that we perform as best as we possibly can during the remainder of the pandemic and in the future.”

By strengthening our domestic diagnostics industry – investing in homegrown, home-administered solutions and onshoring the manufacturing capacity to produce these solutions – we can live with known viruses more effectively and prepare ourselves for whatever the future may throw at us.

The increased diagnostic prowess of the general public may be one of the most overlooked aspects of the COVID-19 response, but it nevertheless affords us an opportunity to do things very differently going forwards.

The home testing revolution is coming – and it will change everything.

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  1. Pingback: Pfizer to acquire ReViral in $525 million deal | Health Tech World

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