The Corona pandemic has shown us: We are ill-prepared for new infectious diseases – at least as far as wide-area diagnostics are concerned. They first had to be established, and at times they were limited again by the availability of materials. We should therefore ask ourselves: How can we continue to ensure flexible, reliable infection diagnostics in the future – especially at neuralgic points such as healthcare facilities? Learn more about this in our MEDICA DEEP DIVE!
Welcome to our first deep dive: In our MEDICA DEEP DIVE Webtalk kick-off on September 22, 2022, our experts took the audience on a journey into the topic of "flexible infection diagnostics".
We simply had to make SARS-CoV-2 a focal point in our webtalk since the increase in the number of tests had pushed laboratories and hospitals to their breaking point in the past. Especially in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the necessary materials and related supplies weren’t always available. According to Dr. Stefan Zimmermann, "the shortage of reagents was a key issue during the early onset of the pandemic and required flexibility when it came to testing."
Flexibility wasn’t just a critical skill in times of supply bottlenecks. "We added extra working hours in the virology lab to make sure we don’t miss anyone who tests positive for COVID-19. It was also necessary to test all visitors upon arrival at the hospital. Guidance and regulations were also constantly changing – though not weekly – and we all had to keep up. It was one of the biggest challenges I have faced in my 25-year career," explains the doctor at the Center for Infectious Diseases at the Heidelberg University Hospital.
Dr. Stefan Zimmermann
D Eng Can Dincer
D. Eng. Can Dincer points out that the establishment of testing platforms needed for flexible management and preparedness for future pandemics should be a primary goal. The head of the junior research group “Disposable Microsystems” is confident about accomplishing this objective. "I just want to point to how the pandemic has changed the technology we are interested in." The team at the FIT Freiburg Center for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies and the Department of Microsystems Engineering (IMTEK) of the University of Freiburg worked on a face mask with an integrated sensor for respiratory monitoring. "Back then we were asking ourselves 'Who is going to wear a facemask at all?'" By now, interest in medical face masks has actually skyrocketed. The researcher is certain, "demand for breath-based diagnostics and alternative sensor technology approaches is surging. These scientific concepts will be relevant for future pandemics – though perhaps not for the ongoing one."
In our webtalk, Dr. Jochen Rupp revealed how quickly aspects from science, or the laboratory sector can become game changers in acute care management during a pandemic. Bosch Healthcare Solutions GmbH developed a lab-on-a-chip platform that allows point-of-care PCR testing. The Head of Product Management explains: "Vivalytics combines the short wait time of a rapid lateral flow assay with the quality of a PCR test. We miniaturized every aspect of the analytical assay and shortened it through automation and miniaturization. It takes 40 minutes or less from the time you give a sample to getting the result." He adds, "The pandemic has highlighted the long turnaround time. The issue is the time it takes for the sample transport and the respective logistics, and not the time it takes for testing." This approach could also simplify the workflows in laboratories and hospitals Professor Zimmermann mentioned earlier and make processes more efficient. Yet to accomplish this, devices or tests must be easy to use because "if things are not easy to use, there is no use for them at all."
Dr Jochen Rupp
Check out our video-on-demand service to discover other insights delivered by our experts during the one-hour talks. And if you would like to learn more about RNA diagnostics and CRISPR, we recommend the MEDICA LABMED FORUM at this year's MEDICA and a chance to see D.ENG Dincer again.
MEDICA DEEP DIVE is now available as video-on-demand
You can watch our MEDICA DEEP DIVE "Mobile, handy, point-of-care – flexible infection diagnostics" as video-on-demand here.
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