Has having a multiplex test for respiratory infections impacted your COVID-19 testing?
DR. WATSON: As at many institutions, we really had to bring testing for SARS-CoV-2 online very quickly, and we initially had to use single analyte testing because that’s all that was available. This led to very high utilization of our clinical microbiology lab and took up the vast majority of our molecular diagnostic testing capacity. That really stressed our lab’s ability to perform some other key viral tests that needed the PCR thermal cyclers and other related hardware.
Today, we have access to a multiplex PCR panel that includes SARS-CoV-2, so we have more of an all-in-one solution that has eased the burden on our lab’s capacity. That’s been especially useful in pediatrics given that children and many adolescents had fairly mild presentations of SARS-CoV-2 that could have easily been confused with other common respiratory viruses.
As we’re heading into the end of summer and the start of another fall season, we’re already seeing a surge in multiple parts of the country of several respiratory viruses that we did not see in 2020, including RSV, parainfluenza, and other seasonal respiratory pathogens. With those viruses back in circulation along with the ongoing and evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants, we may be in for a really challenging respiratory viral season. Consequently, syndromic panel testing is going to be vital to help identify and treat patients appropriately and effectively.