Coronavirus has become the latest epidemic to be named a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The virus, which causes a serious respiratory infection, started in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December and within the space of a month has spread to every province in the country.
The infection has spread to at least 15 other countries, with the first two cases confirmed in the UK last Friday, 31st of January.
At the time of writing authorities said there have been 17,485 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 362 people have died.
What is remarkable about the response to this particular outbreak is the speed at which health authorities have been able to react, thanks in large part to the willingness of Chinese authorities to share information about the virus with international partners.
This led to a rapid diagnostic test being developed by the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within just one week of the outbreak, with work starting on a vaccine the following week.
However, this ‘rapid’ test is currently a six-hour molecular test conducted in CDC laboratories, which could take up to 24 hours when transport time is included.
Experts in California are now working on a rapid test that could take just two hours and be carried out in point-of-care settings, such as in doctor’s offices, hospital rooms or airport screening sites.
The rising demand for cloud connectivity and data-driven solutions
While it is reassuring to see such efforts and resources being put into developing rapid diagnostic tests, particularly point-of-care tests, this outbreak further highlights the real-world need for digitally connected, data-driven rapid diagnostic solutions.
At Bond Digital Health we have been talking about how digital technology can transform rapid diagnostic tests into fully connected, secure diagnostics with accessible, shareable data.
Ultimately, the real-time aggregation of multi-device data that is inherent in digitally connected diagnostics will become a powerful tool that will help health authorities to not just detect infectious diseases, but also to manage and control the spread of outbreaks in a proactive way.
The coronavirus outbreak is already being tracked on an interactive dashboard run by researchers at John Hopkins University. Alternatively, near real-time data can be tracked here (note: the numbers this tool shows are a bit smaller than on the geo map dashboard; that’s because the World Health Organisation is more conservative into approving each case).
Using data from the CDC and the WHO, the dashboard maps the disease’s spread in almost real time and aids in the fight against misinformation.
As useful as this tool is to the public, it is largely reactive because it relies on information being passed on by two international authorities, who in turn rely on information being passed on from national governments, who in turn rely on information being passed on from local authorities and health bodies.
Automation is the key
Imagine how valuable a point-of-care diagnostic test can be in tackling a disease outbreak when it is connected to the cloud and collects and reports data to all stakeholders in real-time.
Lateral flow is proving to be a valuable rapid testing technology thanks to its ability to deliver accurate, lab-quality, measurable results.
Instead of relying on all those links in the data chain, test results can be scanned and instantly uploaded to the cloud, where they could be processed, analysed and stored securely. Data sharing can be automated within the dashboard to notify bodies in an efficient and timely manner.
Authorities would be able to put in place timely intervention measures to curtail the spread and prevent future transmission.
Bond’s digital technology has the potential to do just that – Transform® is a secure and compliant “white label” platform for lateral flow diagnostics that offers complete end-to-end connectivity.
We think Transform® will be a vital tool in the fight against infectious diseases and it is our goal to see it being used in future epidemics where it can help with disease prevention, eradication and timely action.
Contact us to discuss how we can help you develop the next generation lateral flow diagnostic products.