Unlocking Rapid Diagnosis: Exploring the Benefits of Syndromic Infectious Disease Testing

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Understanding syndromic infectious disease testing
Rapid diagnosis: A game changer
Versatility of syndromic testing
Beyond diagnosis: guiding antibiotic stewardship
Overcoming challenges and future directions
References
Further reading


The demand for swift and accurate diagnosis of infectious diseases stands as a paramount challenge. Syndromic infectious disease testing is a novel approach that focuses on identifying the cause of an illness by examining a range of clinical symptoms, or syndromes, instead of individually isolating specific pathogens.

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Understanding syndromic infectious disease testing

Syndromic infectious disease testing is designed to simultaneously identify multiple pathogens responsible for similar clinical symptoms in a single test. Traditional testing methods typically only target one pathogen at a time.

Conventional diagnostic methods, while effective, often entail prolonged laboratory analyses and may overlook emerging or less common pathogens.

Molecular diagnostic platforms such as Multiplex PCR (mPCR) tests are used to quickly and accurately identify pathogens' genetic material. This approach enables faster and more precise diagnosis.

Rapid diagnosis: A game changer

Rapid diagnosis is extremely important in infectious disease management. The quicker healthcare providers can identify the exact pathogen responsible for an illness, the sooner they can begin the appropriate treatment. Syndromic testing generates results within hours, reducing patients' time to wait for diagnosis.

Infectious diseases caused by contagious pathogens have the potential to spread rapidly within communities and hospitals. Syndromic testing can reduce disease transmission, as healthcare facilities can quickly identify infected individuals, isolate them, and control the infection.

For severe, life-threatening infections, early intervention can have a substantial impact on recovery and survival rates. With syndromic testing, patients receive more accurate treatments, which plays a pivotal role in the severity and duration of their illnesses.

Versatility of syndromic testing

Syndromic testing can diagnose various infectious diseases, from respiratory infections to gastrointestinal illnesses.

The influenza virus is known for causing seasonal epidemics and sometimes pandemics. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that can result in severe respiratory infections.

Both of these diseases can be diagnosed quickly with syndromic testing, enabling healthcare providers to administer antiviral treatment and set precautions to prevent the spread of the virus in healthcare settings.

Gastrointestinal infections can cause distressing symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain caused by many pathogens. Several gastrointestinal infections, such as norovirus, rotavirus, and salmonella, can be diagnosed by syndromic testing, often in situations where quick diagnosis is essential.

Syndromic Testing for Infectious Diseases: Respiratory Infections

Beyond diagnosis: guiding antibiotic stewardship

Highlight how syndromic testing contributes to antibiotic stewardship by informing clinicians about the likely pathogens and their resistance profiles. Discuss how this information aids in tailoring treatment plans.

Antimicrobial stewardship is a term that encompasses using antibiotics responsibly to prevent overuse and resistance.

Healthcare facilities have been increasingly adopting antimicrobial stewardship, meaning they're taking steps to become more cautious and strategic. Despite this, diagnostic stewardship is still relatively new and being established.

Syndromic testing identifies the infectious agents responsible for a patient's symptoms. By knowing the specific pathogens, healthcare professionals can target treatments more accurately, differentiating between viral and bacterial infections and ensuring antibiotics are used correctly and not unnecessarily.

Resistance profiles of identified pathogens can be constructed from syndromic testing, determining if a bacterium is resistant to certain antibiotics, enabling healthcare professionals to select the most effective and appropriate antibiotic for treatment. This prevents the use of ineffective antibiotics, which can contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a global health concern. Syndromic testing helps drive responsible antibiotic use, addressing the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

Overcoming challenges and future directions

Syndromic testing has challenges, including cost, technical complexity, and data interpretation.

Cost is one of the main challenges associated with syndromic testing, as implementing these diagnostic platforms can be costly, putting financial burdens on healthcare providers and patients.

The advanced molecular techniques that syndromic testing relies on can require specialist equipment, expertise, and be technically complex. By simplifying test platforms, syndromic testing can become more user-friendly and accessible.

Interpreting the large amounts of data that are generated by syndromic testing can present a challenge, however bioinformatic researchers are in the process of developing software tools and algorithms that can analyze and interpret syndromic test results more swiftly.

As syndromic testing evolves, there is a drive for strong clinical evidence showing its effectiveness in improving patient outcomes. Current research and clinical investigations are actively working to generate evidence in support of the wider use of syndromic testing.

Syndromic infectious disease testing offers many advantages that have the potential to transform patient care, including providing rapid, comprehensive diagnosis. It can enhance public health response and precede more effective infectious disease management strategies.

References

  • Cassidy, Hayley, et al. "A Discussion of Syndromic Molecular Testing for Clinical Care." Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, vol. 76, no. Suppl 3, 23 Sept. 2021, pp. iii58–iii66, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8460109/, https://doi.org/10.1093/jac/dkab243.
  • Dumkow, Lisa E, et al. "Syndromic Diagnostic Testing: A New Way to Approach Patient Care in the Treatment of Infectious Diseases." Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, vol. 76, no. Supplement_3, 1 Sept. 2021, pp. iii4–iii11, https://doi.org/10.1093/jac/dkab245.
  • Maldonado-Garza, Héctor Jesús, et al. “Diagnostic Syndromic Multiplex Approaches for Gastrointestinal Infections.” Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, vol. 15, no. 7, 1 July 2021, pp. 743–757, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33682566/, https://doi.org/10.1080/17474124.2021.1899807. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.
  • Săndulescu, Oana, et al. "Syndromic Testing in Infectious Diseases: From Diagnostic Stewardship to Antimicrobial Stewardship." Antibiotics, vol. 12, no. 1, 21 Dec. 2022, p. 6, https://doi.org/10.3390/antibiotics12010006. Accessed 26 Feb. 2023.
  • Serigstad, S., et al. "Rapid Syndromic PCR Testing in Patients with Respiratory Tract Infections Reduces Time to Results and Improves Microbial Yield." Scientific Reports, vol. 12, no. 1, 10 Jan. 2022, p. 326, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35013351/, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-03741-7.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Jenna Philpott

Written by

Jenna Philpott

Jenna graduated from Nottingham Trent University in 2022 with a BSc in Biochemistry. She achieved a first in her undergraduate research project which concerned the role of metabolic stress on pancreatic beta cell function, investigating its contribution to the development of type 2-diabetes mellitus (T2DM). The study highlighted the importance of understanding molecular pathways in beta cells for developing prevention measures and new therapeutic options for T2DM.  

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