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The changing respiratory testing landscape: Why the value of flexibility is key.



Within the post-pandemic period of respiratory testing, laboratories have to consolidate platforms and assays to perform extra with much less all whereas guaranteeing enough testing menus for assembly medical wants. (1) On the similar time, there’s rising strain to align testing procedures with a altering panorama of diagnostic stewardship protocols and be certain that every affected person will get the suitable check on the proper time to generate significant data that influences acceptable medical selections. In the end, the objective is to result in each higher affected person outcomes and cut back pointless testing that will increase healthcare prices with out producing actionable outcomes. (2)

Reaching these targets concurrently can be a major problem for the medical laboratory group. Nevertheless, it is by no means too early to start planning for seasonal respiratory testing as a year-round technique. That is key for guaranteeing versatile testing algorithms. A very powerful consider at the moment’s respiratory testing is flexibility in workflows. Mounted testing merchandise equivalent to broad syndromic panels make it far harder to tailor testing to every affected person’s wants, and their mounted prices usually are not conducive to decreasing laboratory payments.

Given the multitude of respiratory pathogens in addition to medical, epidemiological, and financial components, testing for respiratory infections entails a excessive diploma of complexity and burden. Variations in seasons, affected person demographics, severity of illness, specimen sort, suspected pathogen sort, and extra can affect the testing course of. (1,3)

A number of key components (4,5) that should be thought of for respiratory testing workflows embody the next:

Seasonality: Respiratory testing algorithms are extremely influenced by co-circulating respiratory pathogens that will observe a seasonal sample, equivalent to influenza viruses and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whereas different respiratory infections might current opportunistically in season following a flu an infection, equivalent to bacterial pneumonia brought on by Staphylococcus aureus or Hemophilus influenzae. In these seasonal situations, typical outpatients with much less extreme signs might require customary focused flu A/B and RSV testing; hospitalized sufferers with extra extreme signs might require a broader panel-based check. Conversely, a mixture of focused seasonal testing and reflex testing to a panel-based syndromic strategy for sufferers with ongoing illness or pediatric sufferers could also be warranted.

Out-of-season testing is essentially pushed by signs and etiological threat components equivalent to journey and/or publicity. As examples, focused testing for COVID-19, group A streptococcus, and Bordetella pertussis is perhaps warranted in some instances, whereas a syndromic panel strategy is perhaps wanted primarily based on illness threat or severity.

Affected person wants: No matter season or the regional epidemiological panorama, affected person demographics can require completely different ranges of testing. The presence of widespread respiratory pathogens could also be affected by age (e.g., RSV for youngsters or the aged), well being standing (e.g., immunocompromised or extreme pneumonia), and vaccination standing. Single-pathogen exams or focused mini-panels is perhaps acceptable for an in any other case wholesome grownup, however an immunocompromised affected person, an aged affected person, or a baby would possibly require a broader approach–and usually a distinct broader strategy for every of all these sufferers relying on their precise medical scenario.

Pathogen sort: In some conditions, equivalent to throughout a COVID-19 group surge, it could be protected to imagine that the pathogen answerable for a affected person’s respiratory an infection is the SARS-CoV-2 virus, so beginning with a focused check could be justified. Nevertheless, for immunosuppressed people or sufferers with, or in danger for, critically in poor health respiratory illness, a syndromic strategy makes for higher medical utility given the multitude of potential pathogens inflicting related signs. Figuring out the proper pathogen is important for guaranteeing acceptable remedy and avoiding extended illness or mortality.

Diagnostic stewardship

Making use of acceptable medical and epidemiological components to pick out the suitable check for the suitable affected person on the proper time permits laboratory medication specialists to align with the ideas of diagnostic and antimicrobial stewardship. (2,6)

Laboratory interventions to information medical testing and affected person administration are key, given that almost all healthcare selections at the moment are primarily based on diagnostic exams. It is a testomony to the significance of medical laboratories in affected person care, nevertheless it additionally places laboratory testing entrance and heart in efforts to cut back healthcare prices by guaranteeing acceptable testing and prompting the suitable healthcare actions.

For respiratory testing, the place signs in lots of instances are very related, diagnostic stewardship goals to ship acceptable testing algorithms as a way to fast-track medical selections and facilitate acceptable remedies for sufferers whereas lowering the pointless use of antibiotics or antivirals. One other purpose, much less necessary for affected person care however simply as necessary for the accountable administration of healthcare prices on behalf of sufferers, is to get the suitable medical data shortly on the lowest potential value level. A lab that depends on mounted syndromic panels for all suspected respiratory infections, no matter affected person demographics or seasonality, would possibly supply a complete testing strategy however fail to satisfy the targets of diagnostic stewardship.

Choosing the proper check

Going ahead, post-pandemic respiratory testing algorithms are already taking form primarily based on medical, epidemiological, and financial components. Acceptable methods will allow optimum affected person outcomes with out wasteful and dear testing or therapy whereas facilitating laboratory profitability and assuaging hospital burdens. As well as, simplicity and adaptability in testing algorithms will assist cut back the burden on ordering physicians and laboratory workers.

Whereas many labs have adopted focused testing for differential analysis of widespread respiratory pathogens, others have adopted versatile testing approaches primarily based on syndromic panels. A versatile syndromic technique permits for the creation of focused customized panels as subsets of the broader syndromic panel. On this mannequin, labs pay just for the outcomes they choose from the broader check. (7,8) Ought to all outcomes of an preliminary grouping come again unfavourable, workers might select to view outcomes for extra targets on the syndromic panel with out re-running the assay. That is completed via software program manipulation slightly than as a part of the assay workflow. This versatile strategy makes it potential for laboratory workers to make use of a streamlined syndromic algorithm for his or her distinctive check conditions, minimizing the necessity for coaching and validation whereas assembly the diagnostic stewardship objective to keep away from over-testing.

For instance, some laboratories start with syndromic panels of about 20 respiratory pathogens, from which they choose focused groupings that can be utilized for a extra personalized testing strategy. One grouping would possibly embody viral and bacterial pathogens that trigger related signs. Others would possibly characterize the complete vary of testing wants primarily based on affected person demographics, equivalent to a focused panel of influenza A/B and RSV for a pediatric affected person, or a broader group of viral targets for an immunocompromised affected person. These teams can be used as a reflex when singleplex testing is unfavourable both on the identical platform or a distinct platform.

Alternatively, a profitable strategy for medical labs is to run respiratory exams on one platform, eliminating the necessity to herald a number of platforms to deal with all pathogens, all throughputs, and all value factors.

What’s subsequent

The confluence of endemic COVID-19, diagnostic stewardship applications, and rising healthcare prices has led to extra complexity than ever on the planet of respiratory testing. Laboratories should resolve when to check which sufferers for which pathogens, after which be ready to justify the prices of these decisions–all on a patient-by-patient foundation.

No matter which diagnostic platforms a medical laboratory chooses to implement, a very powerful components in assembly these completely different targets ought to be simplicity, flexibility, and check appropriateness. In planning for future respiratory testing, laboratory leaders will need to prioritize testing choices primarily based on medical and epidemiological components that align with their institutional wants and permit for the championing of the search for diagnostic stewardship and optimized healthcare. Focused respiratory testing or versatile syndromic panel testing can match properly into this strategy, addressing reimbursement considerations, and managing prices with out an excessively sophisticated workflow.

In the end, medical laboratories have a singular alternative inside the altering post-pandemic respiratory panorama to make sure diagnostic stewardship ideas for respiratory testing observe and past. Collectively, these initiatives will drive acceptable medical and financial outcomes in opposition to ongoing healthcare challenges.

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See check on-line at beneath the Persevering with Training tab. Passing scores of 70 p.c or larger are eligible for 1 contact hour of P.A.C.E. credit score.


Upon completion of this text, the reader will be capable of:

1. Determine the objective of growing acceptable diagnostic respiratory testing panels.

2. Differentiate the important thing components within the growth of testing workflows for diagnosing respiratory sickness.

3. Determine the targets of making a diagnostic stewardship program for respiratory diseases.

4. Talk about the completely different choices in choosing the proper testing algorithms for the analysis of respiratory sickness.


(1.) Wichmann C. (2023, July 13). Proper affected person, proper check, and lab effectivity. Medical Lab Observer, 55 (8), 42. https:// careers/article/53063478/right-patient right-test-and-lab-efficiency.

(2.) World Well being Group. (2016). Diagnostic stewardship: A information to implementation in antimicrobial resistance surveillance websites [Technical document], WHO-DGO-AMR-2016.3.

(3.) Chow EJ, Uyeki TM, Chu HY. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on group respiratory virus exercise. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2023;21, 195-210. https://doi. org/10.1038/s41579-022-00807-9.

(4.) Calderaro A, Buttrini M, Farina B, Montecchini S, De Conto F, Chezzi C. Respiratory Tract Infections and Laboratory Diagnostic Strategies: A Evaluation with A Give attention to Syndromic Panel-Primarily based Assays. Microorganisms. 2022; 10(9); 1856.

(5.) Albert C. (2023, October). Waiting for respiratory virus season. CAPToday, 37 (10), 1, 24. https://www.

(6.) Claeys KC, Johnson MD. Leveraging diagnostic stewardship inside antimicrobial stewardship programmes. Medicine Context. 2023:12:2022-9-5. Printed 2023 Feb 20. doi:10.7573/dic.2022-9-5.

(7.) Silva A. (2016). Versatile Respiratory Pathogen Testing: Why Scientific Laboratories No Longer Need to Settle [White paper], Luminex. information/products-documentation-tool/WP103759.VERIGENE.RPFIex.SMva.v2.WR.pdf.

(8.) Lopansri B. (2016). Skilled Commentary: A Clinician’s Perspective on Versatile Testing [Case study]. Luminex.

(9.) Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention. (2023). RSV in Infants and Younger Youngsters. U.S. Division of Well being and Human Providers, Nationwide Middle for Immunization and Respiratory Ailments. infants-young-children.html.

Ayaz Majid, PhD and Chris Gardner are Administrators of Product Administration at Diasorin, answerable for focused and syndromic in vitro diagnostic molecular applied sciences respectively. They every have in depth expertise in molecular diagnostics for a variety of infectious illness functions.

By Ayaz Majid, PhD and Chris Gardner

RELATED ARTICLE: Respiratory check choices.

With many various kinds of respiratory check codecs accessible, it could possibly show difficult to know which check to make use of wherein situation. Here’s a fast overview of the most typical kinds of diagnostic instruments for respiratory infections.

Fast antigen testing: Also referred to as lateral movement testing, fast antigen exams moved into physicians’ places of work years in the past and extra lately turned extensively used for at-home COVID-19 testing. Their advantages embody fast outcomes (usually quarter-hour or much less) and ease of use (even an untrained client can usually use the check correctly); in addition they are usually pretty cheap. Nevertheless, fast antigen exams are usually much less delicate than molecular choices, usually requiring affirmation of unfavourable outcomes by PCR when signs persist.

Focused molecular laboratory exams: Molecular exams are identified for his or her accuracy, with excessive sensitivity and specificity. Additionally referred to as nucleic acid amplification exams, these focused assays can be utilized to detect a single pathogen at a time (equivalent to group A Streptococcus (GAS) or SARS-CoV-2) or a small variety of pathogens that make sense to check collectively (equivalent to flu A/B and RSV). Molecular exams could also be carried out with automated sample-to-answer platforms that require little or no hands-on time, as is the case of many business in-vitro diagnostic assays, or they could require a extra conventional, larger degree of laboratory experience with extra advanced workflows. These usually require pattern preparation (handbook or automated) previous to working on a separate thermocycler or reader. Outcomes are produced pretty shortly, usually in about 2-3 hours relying upon the system.

Syndromic molecular exams: These check panels share all the advantages of different molecular tests–including accuracy and pretty fast results–but present outcomes for a wider group of pathogens per pattern. Since these exams cowl many extra targets, syndromic panels could be dearer than their focused molecular counterparts and are regularly reserved for in-patient and important care testing. If versatile testing choices can be found, syndromic molecular assays could be equally cost-effective as different options by solely ensuing and paying for the pathogens wanted to drive medical motion.

RELATED ARTICLE: Take a look at choice by affected person demographics.

For respiratory infections, medical laboratory testing algorithms can develop into fairly advanced. Broadly, a couple of key classes primarily based on affected person demographics might help information choice of essentially the most acceptable check. The data beneath is gleaned from typical algorithms at many medical laboratories.

In any other case wholesome adults: The medical utility of respiratory antigen testing was exemplified with at-home COVID-19 antigen exams to facilitate fast and low-cost testing for affected person isolation and forestall unfold. Different respiratory pathogen antigen exams are carried out by well being care suppliers (e.g., GAS, flu, and RSV) in symptomatic people. Nevertheless, these unfavourable by antigen testing but clearly symptomatic profit from extra delicate focused molecular testing primarily based on viruses in circulation (e.g., COVID-19 and flu A/B or COVID-19, flu A/B, and RSV) or differentiated affected person signs (e.g., GAS). Syndromic panel-based testing is useful particularly when the anticipated focused molecular testing was unfavourable and signs persist.

Outdoors of the everyday respiratory season, clinicians might suggest focused exams primarily based on indicators and signs or regional epidemiology. Nevertheless, primarily based on severity of illness, a syndromic check could also be warranted to successfully deal with and or monitor out-of-season respiratory outbreaks.

In any other case wholesome kids: The youngest kids–typically beneath age five–are at excessive threat for RSV and usually require a molecular check masking COVID-19, flu A/B, and RSV.9 Children over the age of 5 would possibly want that very same check with the addition of group A strep (antigen or molecular check). In these kids presenting with extra signs like a persistent cough, a syndromic check will allow acceptable administration directly and assist rule out causative viruses and micro organism not captured within the preliminary screening assays.

Aged: The aged could be significantly weak to respiratory infections attributable to underlying illness and/or compromised immune methods. Cautious medical analysis can direct acceptable ordering for focused molecular testing to rule out choose viruses that could be circulating concurrently (i.e., COVID-19/, flu A/B, and RSV) or primarily based on the severity of illness and underlying threat, then speedy syndromic testing could also be warranted to provoke acceptable medical motion and affected person therapy.

Immunocompromised adults or kids: These weak sufferers are vulnerable to extra extreme respiratory infections and should develop into hospitalized. Sufferers on this group probably want a broad syndromic panel masking all pathogens usually answerable for respiratory infections.

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