Press Release
Jul 5, 2023
Diagnosing infectious disease – a poster child for preventive medicine if we can make the numbers work

The ravages of infectious disease would no doubt have been a concept for many people in 1948, when the NHS was born in the aftermath of WWII. Penicillin had been discovered not long before and its reputation as a wonder drug had been cemented on the battlefields of WWII. The value of a cure for infectious diseases had been shown clearly. The value of infection prevention, the other side of the coin of managing infectious diseases, took much longer to gain traction as a priority in modern healthcare. Approximately 75 years, in particular.

Mind the gap

Recognising both sides of the infection management coin is important, particularly as the not-so-silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance grows. Novel solutions are needed both to cure microbial-caused infection and to prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Unfortunately, despite the ongoing impact and public health burden that infection still has, infectious diseases remain one of the minnows of healthcare in modern medicine. This situation is made worse by a further layer of inequality between diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease.

Infectious disease diagnostics have traditionally been overshadowed by antibiotics, their therapeutic counterparts, for prioritisation in healthcare systems, R&D resource and media attention. How this situation has come to be is without doubt complex, multifaceted and the topic of another post.

Using COVID-19 pandemic lessons

As we celebrate 75 years of the NHS In the UK this week, one of the burning questions to be answered in the field of infectious disease has to be how to leverage the benefits of preventive medicine for the benefit of individuals, communities, societies and for the health of the NHS itself.

The value of infectious disease prevention and early and accurate diagnosis was one of the most significant learning points that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic. It showed that, with political will, unified focus and teamwork, resources could be leveraged at scale for development of diagnostics and vaccines to benefit society as a whole. In contrast, the absence of any of these components hampers innovation and development of diagnostics as a tool for public good.

A fresh take on a business model for diagnostics

Fundamentally, the conundrum facing development of infectious disease diagnostics is one of economics. The recent Office of Health Economics publication maps out the landscape and proposes a model within which local solutions can be devised. Read more about this model here Let us know what you think.  

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