Infectious Disease Pandemic

History has revealed that nothing has killed more human beings than infectious disease and Covid-19 shows the vulnerability of the human population. Covid-19 has reminded us that infectious diseases haven’t vanished and the new ones keep getting added to the list year after year. A session on ‘Infectious Disease Pandemic – A growing threat to mankind’ was conducted at the 4th Elets virtual Diagnostic Leadership Summit that revolved around understanding the present and future perspectives to tide this colossal wave. Edited Excerpts:

Moderating the session, Dr Aarti Gupta, Zonal Head, Lab Operations, SRL Limited, Fortis Memorial Research Institute stated, “Owing to the interplay of human and environmental factors, infectious diseases outspread faster than ever before. A lot of deliberations are mandated for identification and treatment of these emerging pathogens”. She added, “The spectrum of human pathogens and infectious diseases are continuously spreading because of evolution and environmental factors. There’s a lot of international travel happening. Initially, things were at the local level, then they became continental intercontinental and now it is globalization that is causing infectious diseases to spread at a rapid pace.”

Dr Abhay Chowdhary, Prof & Head of Microbiology, DY PATIL University, School of Medicine, Hospital & Research Center, Navi Mumbai said, “It is important to know, understand the drivers of infectious disease and also know how they are changing over a while & causing the pandemics. There is already a list of infectious diseases that are likely to come up & change with geographic locations.”

He expressed that Covid made us realize that some uncertainties are beyond everybody’s control but we can be prepared. “Preparing is the key. It makes us comprehend the emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases for over three to four decades now and it is found that almost 70 to 75 percent of these infectious diseases are of zoonotic origin and have a viral etiology. So there is a strong relationship with these ideological factors, particularly the urbanization, deforestation, climate change, unhealthy lifestyles substance, abuse, and so many other things which are coming up in the way,” stated Dr Abhay Chowdhary.

Dr Manisha Singh, HOD – Microbiology & Serology, Vijaya Diagnostic Centre articulated, “We are seeing emerging and reemerging of diseases. Human factors like urbanization, and global travel are playing a huge role in the spread of infectious diseases. Unplanned migrations in war or disasters, reforestation, food habits, multi-drug resistance are also some of the key factors for the rise of infectious diseases.”

She further added, Covid has been a good learning subject for all of us and we have also seen some new variants and this is either because of mutation re-assortment or recombination in the viruses. She said information communication and education are three crucial aspects. There is a need to spread awareness and added that social media can be used in spreading the correct information about infectious diseases. “Prevention is better than cure. We should have immunization for all the available infections. Information, education, and communication are important for mitigating the pandemic.” stated Dr Manisha Singh.

Dr Neha Rathor, Consultant Microbiologist, Senior Quality Manager Chairman HICC, QRG Medicare conveyed, “Preparing for any pandemic is a huge challenge. The most important preparation is to strengthen the core infrastructure & health infrastructure. Also, there is a need to work with a lot of agility to mitigate a disaster by communicating well. We can also provide rapid vaccinations and also focus on routine vaccinations. The capacity building for diagnosis can also help to contain the epidemic or the pandemic.”

She averred that when a pandemic starts, we are required to work with a lot of agility. “So we must extinguish the sparks and prevent it from further spreading. And that requires a lot of public messaging and coordinated efforts from all the agencies. Quick communication will help in reducing infectious diseases,” she added. “Arogya Setu app is a very good example of usage of technology for providing solutions and predictions. Usage of wearable devices also rose after the pandemic and helped in predicting & preventing pandemics,” commented Dr Neha Rathor.

Dr Disha Bhatia, National Head, Microbiology and Serology, CORE Diagnostics averred, “All of us have launched technology-intensive solutions owing to covid. Right from the testing platform to reporting, we have been rapidly moving towards automation. However, AI-powered solutions that look at the entire supply chain scenario holistically are needed for better access to a broader population. She expressed that there is a need to adopt AI-powered solutions that take a holistic look at the entire supply chain situation. “The time lag between collection of data and dissemination of information that can guide the public health measures needs to be improved.” sounded Dr Disha Bhatia.

Sukrut Jobanputra, Director, Advanced Genomics Institute and Laboratory Medicine, (LABASSURE) said, “Using genomic technology, we can study pathogens at a molecular level that forms the basis of research. However, genomics needs to be used in integration with other technologies. We will see an improvement in the genomic capability infrastructure in the coming times.” He further expressed that predicting the future is always very risky. There has to be a continuous strengthening of our technical capabilities. After the pandemic is over, healthcare doesn’t get the attention it deserves. “We also need to have improved dialogue and interaction between different stakeholders. There also has to be a more free & fair exchange of information between various stakeholders in formal or informal forums. Also, the pricing of tests requires much more dialogue and discussions,” shared Sukrut Jobanputra.

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