Surveillance technology to aid in disease detection, response

The Ebola crisis has highlighted a need to bolster global surveillance and enhance the capability to react appropriately to further outbreaks, experts say. This should include making use of modern technologies for detecting disease, sharing information in real time and analyzing data. “We cannot afford to wait for the next outbreak of infectious disease before putting effective systems in place to safeguard public health,” says one expert.

 

Surveillance technology could help enable a swifter, more effective response to serious disease outbreaks, research shows.

The Ebola crisis has highlighted a need to bolster global surveillance and enhance the capability to react appropriately to further outbreaks, University experts say. This should include making use of modern technologies for detecting disease, sharing information in real time and analyzing data.

Lessons from Ebola
The University of Edinburgh reports that a team of infectious disease experts from the University of Edinburgh and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute reviewed the global response to recent outbreaks, including Ebola, swine flu, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

They found that shortcomings in the response to Ebola highlight the need to adopt state-of-the-art techniques to detect and monitor potential infectious disease outbreaks anywhere in the world.

Testing toolkit
Technological advances such as rapid testing of patients and fast genetic analysis of viruses could help experts deal more effectively with emergency situations as they unfold, thereby saving lives.

Researchers say such tools are already available, and should be brought into public health planning around the world in order to help combat future disease outbreaks.

We cannot afford to wait for the next outbreak of infectious disease before putting effective systems in place to safeguard public health,” said Professor Mark Woolhouse of the Center for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, University of Edinburgh. “Global surveillance would be costly, but in our highly connected world, early detection and rapid action against outbreaks are to everyone’s benefit.”

Real-time analysis of virus genomes such as Ebola is an important addition to our toolkit for investigating disease outbreaks. When combined with the date and location of the sample, we can determine how the virus spreads. These technologies can improve the management of an outbreak, thereby saving lives,” said Professor Paul Kellam, Group Leader of Virus Genomics, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

— Read more in Mark J. Woolhouse et al., “Lessons from Ebola: Improving infectious disease surveillance to inform outbreak management,” Science Translational Medicine 7, no. 307 (30 September 2015): 307rv5 (DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aab0191)

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