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Center Releases New Report: At-Home Diagnostic Testing for Infectious Diseases: A Tool for Accelerating COVID-19 Diagnosis and Building Pandemic Preparedness for the Future

Center News


June 24, 2020 – The Johns Hopkins Center for Health has released a new report assessing the promise and challenges posed by at-home diagnostic technologies for infectious diseases, especially for COVID-19 and influenza. (Currently, HIV is the only infection for which the FDA has approved a home diagnostic test.)

The report, “At Home Diagnostic Testing for Infectious Diseases: A Tool for Accelerating COVID-19 Diagnosis and Building Pandemic Preparedness for the Future,” says that diagnostic technologies are undergoing rapid advancement in their sensitivity, specificity, rapidity, and simplicity. As at-home versions of these technologies expand into the infectious disease realm, it will be important to leverage their use for pandemic preparedness and emerging infectious disease activities.

For example, the report notes that by employing home influenza tests, the healthcare community will improve antiviral prescribing, infection control guidance, and diagnostic capacity. All of these improvements can be harnessed to improve pandemic response. Additionally, such home-testing technologies may have the potential to be relatively easily expanded to target other respiratory viruses that may have pandemic potential.

In the immediate term, at-home diagnostics should be prioritized for COVID-19 as a way of increasing the speed and ease of diagnosis and decreasing the risk of spread involved with in person testing.

To realize the full potential of at-home infectious disease diagnostics, the authors recommend:

  • Strong coupling of at home diagnostic test results with public health authority surveillance activities is critical to their success in improving public health preparedness. Results should not only inform clinical care, but also be channeled to relevant public health agencies in order to inform and shape response.
  • Symptom collection as well as exposure and travel history are important pieces of information that should be collected in tandem with testing. Collecting data regarding symptoms will help gauge severity and guide treatment decisions. Exposure and travel history will help identify the presence of potential novel strains.
  • As influenza at home testing is pursued, other respiratory viral targets should also be explored. As we have seen with COVID-19, many respiratory viruses other than influenza pose pandemic risks. At home testing, especially if leveraged on diagnostic platform devices, would enhance surveillance for these viruses, most of which are often not formally tracked.
  • During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic it is essential that BARDA, FDA, and Congress prioritize the funding, development, and review of at-home COVID-19 diagnostics.

You can access the new report with executive summary here.