Infectious diseases are still among the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that infectious diseases were emerging at an unprecedented rate. Over 40 infectious diseases have been discovered in the past 50 years, including AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza, swine flu, Zika, and most recently COVID-19. Some infectious diseases have even reemerged, like monkeypox, which was first identified in 1958.
While some of these diseases are the result of natural processes, like the evolution of pathogens over time, many can be attributed to modern societal advancements and overpopulation.
Factors contributing to the emergence of infectious diseases and their spread
As the human population expands into previously unoccupied areas, the intermingling of humans and wildlife becomes more prevalent, promoting an environment where pathogens transfer from wild or domestic animals to humans. The expansion of agriculture and farming may also lead to viruses transferring from one animal breed host to another, allowing for more rapid acceleration of the disease.
Climate change is another factor attributed to disease emergence, as habitats are altered. One example is the mosquito, responsible for the origin of multiple diseases. With the warming climate, mosquitos have been able to expand the number of regions where they thrive. Evidence also suggests that a breed of fox in Australia continually migrating south due to climate change caused the Hendra virus to spread into the South Australia horse population, and subsequently to humans.1
In the past, infectious disease was more prevalent in developing nations, where nutrition and living standards were low and medical attention was rare. However, the advent of air travel has significantly increased the risk of disease transmission. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the total number of air travelers in 2019 was 4.5 billion. During that same year, 253M passengers traveled by air either to or from the US2, compared to approximately 36M in the 1950s.
Most recently, there has also been a breakdown in public health measures, including the reduction or elimination of prevention programs, as well as a lack of educational resources regarding the need for better health practices or vaccinations.
The public health laboratory
Public health laboratories (PHLs) function like many other clinical diagnostic laboratories across the country, completing both diagnostic and reference testing. But PHLs work at the federal, state, and local levels and focus on disease surveillance, the health of population groups, and emergency response support. PHLs also partner with the WHO and other international organizations to control threats to the public.
Every state and territory, including the District of Columbia, and many cities and counties have their PHLs, which don’t just test humans for infectious diseases but also test the water, soil, air, food, and manufactured products for substances that can harm the human population.
However, there have been significant budget cuts in public health spending over the last 20 years. California has closed 10 public health labs since 2003. According to data compiled by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota, more than 20 states across the country cut public health spending between 2008 and 2018.
The need for commercial clinical diagnostic laboratories
While public health laboratories are vital, working closely with agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), these labs aren’t always enough to handle the testing needs of today’s society. In Iowa, where the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 called for approximately 10,000 tests, COVID-19 required more than 250,000.3 The US had no choice but to enlist commercial labs to assist with testing.
When cases of monkeypox appeared in the US earlier this year, the CDC insisted that all PCR tests run through its centralized network of laboratories. However, after just two months into the outbreak, the US allowed commercial labs to perform monkeypox testing and increased the samples from just a few thousand per week to almost 80,000.
Private clinical laboratories can also be the first to discover an emerging infectious disease, being more patient-focused. These labs often work with hospitals and emergency rooms dealing with the needs of sick individuals, analyzing everything from blood, urine, and mucus to spinal fluid and tissues.
LabLynx offers a LIMS solution for both public health and clinical diagnostic laboratories
The LabLynx ELab LIMS for public health laboratories not only tracks specimens from the point of collection to disposal with complete chain-of-custody records, but also simplifies the transfer of public health data to federal, state, tribal, or local agencies through automated reporting tools. The LabLynx ELab LIMS can also document and audit the lab’s operations to maintain accreditations with PHAB, CLIA, CAP, and other programs.
Designed specifically for healthcare and clinical diagnostic laboratories, the LabLynx ClinDx LIMS suite is a hybrid LIMS/LIS with available physician and patient portals that interface directly with the LIMS, EHR/EMR integrations, and the ability to scale to each lab’s future growth or to take on new testing services. The LIMS also supports a lab’s compliance with CLIA, HIPAA, CAP, 21 CFR Part 11, and other regulations and industry standards.
For more information, download a complimentary copy of The Ideal LIMS for Clinical Diagnostics today to start mapping the journey to your ideal LIMS. Or visit www.LabLynx.com to schedule an introductory call with our sales team.