WHO published its first ever list of essential diagnostic tests today to address the prevalence of late or incorrect diagnoses and improve treatment outcomes globally.
“People go undiagnosed or are wrongly diagnosed every day, sometimes with extremely serious consequences for their health,” Mariângela Simão, MD, WHO assistant director-general for access to medicines, vaccines and pharmaceuticals, told Infectious Disease News. “Accurate diagnosis is the first step to getting effective treatment.”
When patients are not diagnosed quickly or correctly, infectious diseases can spread easily and rapidly, leading to outbreaks. In the case of chronic diseases, the risk for health complications and related costs increase substantially the longer a patient goes without a diagnosis, according to the agency.
The Essential Diagnostics List comprises 113 products and focuses on in vitro tests of human specimens, such as blood and urine. The list clarifies whether a diagnostic test can be used in a primary health care setting or if it must be handled by a larger health facility with a lab, and it specifies each diagnostic by test type, intended use and format. Furthermore, 58 of the tests screen for a wide range of common conditions, and 55 screen for “priority” diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, HPV and syphilis. Some of the tests, such as those that screen for diabetes or acute malaria in children, can be performed anywhere because they do not require electricity or trained personnel.
According to the release, WHO created the Essential Diagnostic List as a reference for countries to create personalized indexes of vital tests — similar to the Essential Medicines List WHO initially released in 1977.
As with the Essential Medicines List, WHO said it will regularly update the Essential Diagnostics List and will eventually expand it to include diagnostics that screen for antimicrobial resistance, emerging pathogens, neglected tropical diseases, and other noncommunicable diseases.
WHO created the list through extensive internal and external consultation, and it was reviewed by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In Vitro Diagnostics, according to the release.
”Such a list is critical if we want to improve global health and reach universal health coverage everywhere,” Simão said in the interview. “The list signals that essential diagnostic tests must be available at all times and that they need to be safe, accurate, and appropriate for the settings where they will be used. The list also stresses that countries must adopt and adapt the list to their own needs and provide the appropriate infrastructure for performing the tests.” – by Marley Ghizzone
WHO. Executive Summary. World Health Organization Model List of Essential In Vitro Diagnostics, First edition (2018). http://www.who.int/medical_devices/diagnostics/EDL_ExecutiveSummary_15may.pdf?ua=1.
Disclosures: Tedros and Simão report no relevant financial disclosures.