A team at Emory University has played a key role in helping the federal government evaluate COVID-19 tests during the pandemic.
Now they’re focused on what's coming next with the virus.
One thing that's in the works is a combination test for Covid and the flu.
“(It) would be really useful for people at home or somewhere else, because the symptoms might be very similar and if you're in the winter, let's say next Christmas, and you're experiencing some form of cold symptoms. Being able to differentiate (…) from flu from something else can be really helpful for knowing what you need to do, even talking to your doctor about what treatments you might be offered,” said Dr. Greg Martin at Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Martin is hopeful this test could be available by the start of next flu season.
Another future advancement in testing is for people to know which variant they have.
“Ultimately, we're beginning to see some treatments work better with some variants than others and so being able to differentiate the variant might become more and more important as time goes by, as variants begin to emerge,” Dr. Martin said. Other doctors say at-home testing is here to stay and not just for COVID-19.
They see it expanding to other diseases, because of the new acceptance around it.
“The most likely tests are the ones in which, if you're positive there's something that the doctor will do, meaning, perhaps give you a medication or have you come into the hospital or their clinic to check out,” said Dr. Wilbur Lam at Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Lam says diseases like cancer that require multiple types of tests to be diagnosed wouldn't work well for home tests.
But monitoring certain aspects of cancer, like side effects, could be done at home.
“Companion diagnostics are diagnostic tests that are coupled to a medication so whereas a patient could therefore determine you know, based on the test how well their drug is working or not working, and that could be something that they could work with their provider on,” said Dr. Lam.
During the pandemic, doctors have found that the fastest tests available are ones based on already existing technologies.