COVID-19 Lessons from Newborn Screening
What can newborn screening approaches teach us about COVID-19 testing?
Donald H. Chace | | Opinion
Early disease detection leads to faster, more effective treatments and improved outcomes. These fundamental goals underpin newborn screening for rare inherited disorders. We can apply the lessons learned from more than a half decade of newborn screening to some of the issues surrounding infectious disease detection – specifically, COVID-19. Today, we undertake the public health mission of saving lives every day for hundreds of thousands of newborns. What can we take from this work to improve our response to the current pandemic?
To answer that question, we must ask another: what are the key issues facing screening in healthcare? One is false results. As laboratorians, the methods we develop must be accepted by public health specialists and the clinicians who order the tests. To be useful in a public health screening environment, a method must have a target of zero false negatives and exceptionally low false positives. Furthermore, it must be able to test large numbers of samples accurately and precisely; it must be affordable to the consumer or payer; and samples collected must be adequate. What makes a sample adequate? It must be:
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