Proliferation of infectious disease tests leading to misuse and misinterpretation: Report

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The proliferation of testing options is leading to the misuse and misinterpretation of infectious disease serologic assays, according to an article in Clinical Laboratory News (CLN).

According to the article, problems can arise when laboratories are asked to do more testing without getting additional staff or resources. The disconnect between changes in demand and capabilities can result in lab directors being asked to oversee testing that is outside of their areas of expertise. Additionally, there are more and more testing options, and clinicians need to know how to interpret unexpected results.

Patricia Slev, PhD, a medical director at the nonprofit and academic reference lab ARUP Laboratories, outlined how the changes are altering the skill sets that people need to possess to thrive in certain jobs.

“Increasingly, infectious disease serology testing is available outside the traditional microbiology laboratory, creating a need for non-microbiologists to understand the benefits, challenges, and limitations of infectious disease serology,” Slev told CLN.

CLN is the magazine of the Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine (ADLM), a scientific and medical professional organization that was known as the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) until last week. The organization rebranded to reflect its expansion beyond clinical chemists.

The article goes on to discuss how improvements in clinical assays and automation have led to “more test choices in different sections of the laboratory.” The improvements have made some serology tests obsolete. However, clinicians continue to order these obsolete tests. Slev named Lyme disease as an example of an area that has become confusing as different diagnostic options have emerged.

Other problems include excessive testing, such as the overuse of neurosyphilis assays on patients who are not at risk of infection with the sexually transmitted infection or the damage the bacteria can cause to the central nervous system.

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