A morning symposium at the 69th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will discuss the necessity for an essential diagnostics list and recent efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) to make this happen.

In 2016, several health policy groups at an international workshop called for the creation of a list of diagnostics for dangerous transmissible infections like Ebola. Just recently, WHO announced it would create such a list, initially covering tests for HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and viral hepatitis but expanding over time to include other infectious and noncommunicable diseases.

Presenters at the symposium, Diagnostics in Global Health: Time to Strengthen this Weakest Link (32107) will explain why the global health community needs such a list, how it should be developed, and how it would assist labs and laboratory systems.

“Some problems in global health exist because there are no good solutions. Others are problems because there hasn’t been sufficient attention given to them,” session moderator Lee Schroeder, MD, PhD, assistant professor in pathology at the University of Michigan, told CLN Stat. Cristina Giachetti, PhD, deputy director for diagnostics at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the University of California, San Diego, and Timothy Amukele, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, will be joining Schroeder at the dais for this session.

At least four major forces have put the spotlight on diagnostics in global health. One is the burden of major endemic infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. Another is the health security threat of epidemics from pathogens like yellow fever, Ebola, and Zika viruses, Schroeder said.

“The third is the realization that antibiotic resistance could cost a cumulative $100 trillion by 2050 if we continue on the path we are on,” he added.

The last factor is the growing epidemic of noncommunicable diseases that account for over 40 million deaths a year, Amukele told CLN Stat. “In terms of premature deaths, it disproportionately affects low- and middle-income countries,” he said.

If used effectively in resource-limited settings, diagnostics could play a crucial role in reducing the burden of each of these public health emergencies.

An essential diagnostics list would help guide countries in investing in lab tests and in addressing the many issues involved in delivering laboratory medicine in resource-limited settings, Schroeder said. These logistical barriers include limited affordability (e.g., no organized, pooled procurement); unreliable supply chains; unplanned specimen referral networks; and poor laboratory quality.

Similar problems identified with respect to medicines led in 1977 to the WHO’s Model List of Essential Medicines (EML).

A committee will meet on a periodic basis to update the WHO’s essential diagnostics list, as has been the case for the EML over the last 40 years, Schroeder said. “However, for the WHO to be able to do this they will need support from global health funders and nongovernment organizations,” he added.

To sign up for this session to learn more about the WHO’s plans for an essential diagnostics list and how such a list might assist labs in fighting dangerous infectious diseases, register today for the 69th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo July 30–Aug. 3.