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WHO publishes first-ever list of essential diagnostic tests

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WHO has published its first Essential Diagnostics List, a catalogue of the tests needed to diagnose the most common conditions as well as a number of global priority diseases. “An accurate diagnosis is the first step to getting effective treatment,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “No one should suffer or die because of a lack of diagnostic services, or because the right tests were not available.”

  1. The list concentrates on in vitro tests i.e. tests of human specimens like blood and urine. It contains 113 products: 58 tests are listed for detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions, providing an essential package that can form the basis for screening and management of patients.
  2. The remaining 55 tests are designed for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of “priority” diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus and syphilis. 

Some of the tests are particularly suitable for primary health care facilities, where laboratory services are often poorly resourced and sometimes non-existent; for example, tests that can rapidly diagnose a child for acute malaria or glucometers to test diabetes. These tests do not require electricity or trained personnel. Other tests are more sophisticated and therefore intended for larger medical facilities.For each category of test, the Essential Diagnostics List specifies the type of test and intended use, format, and if appropriate for primary health care or for health facilities with laboratories. The list also provides links to WHO Guidelines or publications and, when available, to prequalified products.Similar to the WHO Essential Medicines List, which has been in use for four decades, the Essential Diagnostics List is intended to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics. In order to truly benefit patients, national governments will need to ensure appropriate and quality-assured supplies, training of health care workers and safe use…(Source: WHO, May 15, 2018)


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