March 12, 2021 | How online symptom checkers stack up—and if they are helpful. Should we just mail everyone a stack of tests? And Thermo’s new panel to keep track of mutations.
Top Research News
A European team of researchers examined the COVID-19 community triage pathways employed by four nations, specifically comparing the safety and efficacy of national online symptom checkers used within the triage pathway. They found that both the US and UK symptom checkers consistently failed to identify the symptoms of severe COVID-19, bacterial pneumonia, and sepsis, frequently advising these cases to stay home. Both symptom checkers maintain a high threshold for referring onward to clinical contact, triaging the majority of patients to stay home with no clinical contact. The symptom checkers employed by Japan and Singapore, however, are twice as likely to triage cases onward for clinical assessment than those of the US or UK. For instance, in Singapore, age over 65 years, or the presence of any health condition, or duration of symptoms over 4 days triggers the advice to seek medical assessment. The authors write that while symptom checkers may be of use in the healthcare response to COVID-19, the CDC Coronavirus Symptom Checker in the US and the 111 COVID-19 Symptom Checker in the UK, if used as the sole point of initial healthcare contact, are likely to confer a tangible risk of delaying the presentation of time-critical acute illnesses. They recommend that symptom checkers should be subjected to the same level of evidenced-based quality assurance as other diagnostic tests prior to implementation. The findings were published in the online journal BMJ Health & Care Informatics. DOI: 10.1136/bmjhci-2020-100187
Mailing a package of SARS-CoV-2 tests rapid antigen tests to every household in America and asking people to use them once a week could greatly reduce total infections and mortality at a justifiable cost, a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds. The researchers propose that the antigen tests could warn people, in real-time, that they are potentially contagious and that they should isolate themselves before unknowingly spreading the disease to others. The potential drawbacks to such an effort are clear, so the researchers wanted to quantify the costs and benefits. They believe that a nationwide program of frequent, antigen-based home testing and self-isolation could greatly reduce total infections and mortality at a justifiable cost. “We arrived at this conclusion by using methods of cost-effectiveness analysis and assumptions that were specifically chosen to portray all aspects of the intervention—performance of antigen testing, the behavioral response of individuals to testing and isolation protocols, and societal willingness to pay to avert untimely deaths—in an unfavorable light,” they write. They published their findings in Annals of Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.7326/M21-0510
Top Industry News
Thermo Fisher Scientific has launched the Applied Biosystems TaqMan SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Panel, a customizable menu of 22 verified real-time PCR assays for identification of SARS-CoV-2 mutations. These assays enable surveillance of variants that are causing COVID-19 infections in specific regions globally and allow laboratories to choose which mutations to track. The TaqMan SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Panel is designed to be highly scalable, being able to run a few or hundreds of samples to identify one or many mutations. This provides laboratories with the ability to meet various levels of testing need with real-time PCR instruments they already use. The TaqMan SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Panel provides results in about an hour and is based on gold standard TaqMan SNP genotyping assay technology, which can help to detect and distinguish mutations efficiently. Press release.