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News Article

Diagnosis: Powerful Weapon to Tackle the Pandemic

By Andrea Villar | Thu, 01/28/2021 - 13:15

Among the most common medical errors today are hospital infections, mistakes while filling a prescription and late or erroneous diagnoses, said Héctor Barillas, Director General of bioMérieux on Thursday, Jan. 28, during the first virtual edition of Mexico Health Summit. The latter has become a challenge for the population, the health sector and private institutions. Countries around the world and WHO stress that the best and fastest way to end the pandemic is through testing. 

“Aviation and medicine share many similarities. Both require training and specialized staff. These industries need technology to have timely information and make decisions to keep people safe,” Barillas said. “Decision-making is where the importance of in vitro diagnostics lies. It allows us to understand what situation a patient is in and how their condition will evolve,” he explained. Up to 70 percent of medical decisions are based on a diagnostics test.

Due to technological advances, Barillas said, diagnostics is evolving extremely fast. “When the Spanish flu virus arrived, it took the world 80 years to sequence the virus. Today, three weeks were enough to sequence SARS-CoV-2. Dealing with the pandemic was dramatically different.” 

Over the past few months, the role of clinical laboratories has been critical, stated Barillas. “No one is unaware of PCR tests anymore, which are the most important of all and allow us to find out, at the right time, whether a patient has the disease or not, allowing for prognoses and monitoring,” he said. The expert also highlighted the importance of antibody testing, which allows us to know if a patient has had the disease and developed immunity. 

However, no test is perfect, Barillas stressed. “Not all tests are useful at all times. In the case of PCR, there is a time window where it is useful, but from the second and third week after contagion it becomes useless,” he said. In the case of IGM and IGG antibody tests, there is also a limited time window. “It is important to emphasize the sensitivity and specificity of the tests.

“At bioMérieux, our mission is to improve public health through accurate diagnosis,” Barillas pointed out. The French-based company, with more than 50 years of experience in immunoscience, microbiology and molecular biology, has developed solutions for COVID-19. Among these solutions is molecular syndromic diagnosis. “This is a different approach to molecular diagnosis. It allows us to group a set of probable pathogens by type of syndrome, which allows us to quickly find out which pathogen is responsible for the disease we are dealing with,” Barillas explained.

In the particular case of respiratory syndromes, traditional diagnostics results take hours or days. With molecular syndromic diagnosis, “you can do a test and have a full report in less than an hour,” Barillas said. "This test increases the chance of finding the pathogen and contributes to the proper management of the patient and therefore helps to save more lives.” bioMérieux’s molecular syndromic diagnosis FilmArray system is a PCR test that allows simultaneous testing for bacteria, viruses, yeasts, parasites or antimicrobial-resistant genes. 

Andrea Villar Andrea Villar Journalist and Industry Analyst