Detecting the molecular signature (i.e., DNA) of a harmful organism is fast becoming the most accurate and rapid way to identify infectious diseases so that healthcare professionals can quickly initiate the correct course of therapy – improving patient outcomes and quality of life.
When it comes to diagnosing infectious diseases, there are many different approaches. There are tests that detect the presence of protective antibodies produced by the body, devices that detect antigens that are present on the suspected bacteria or virus, but not in humans, and many more. However, detecting the molecular signature (i.e., DNA) of a harmful organism is fast becoming the most accurate and rapid way to identify infectious diseases so that healthcare professionals can quickly initiate the correct course of therapy – improving patient outcomes and quality of life.
Molecular diagnostics utilize various scientific techniques to analyze genetic biomarkers, DNA or RNA, which can be used to identify disease. DNA is at the core of all living things and determines not only the physical characteristics of an organism, but also how cells and systems within an organism function.
Genes are comprised of specific DNA sequences and when a gene within a cell is expressed, the DNA in that gene is used as a template to create RNA, which is then used by the cell as a template to create proteins for specific functions. Since DNA gives rise to RNA and RNA to proteins, DNA is more specific for biomarker identification and biomarkers of RNA expression will often indicate the level or stage of diseases such as cancer.
Molecular diagnostic tests typically target a specific sequence within a gene, entire genes, or even larger portions of the chromosome, providing the ability to determine the presence or absence of a gene, the actual sequence of the gene, the number of copies of a particular gene, or the level of RNA expression of a specific gene. Scientific techniques have progressed over the last 30 years, enabling genetic analysis through rapid replication of genetic targets and the ability to visualize the replication with reporter molecules, including fluorescent and colorimetric dyes, which allow scientists to monitor and analyze the replication reaction.
Additionally, these techniques are often more sensitive than prior techniques, which means they are able to produce positive results when fewer target organisms or sequences are present.
So why is this important and what is its relevance to POC testing? The DNA of an organism (or RNA in the case of some viruses) provides a very specific target for identification, which is perfect when testing for infectious diseases, such as influenza. These modern scientific techniques enable the generation of very high-quality results in minutes, providing physicians with the ability to take a patient’s sample, test it, and report the results to the patient during the time it normally takes for the patient’s visit.
Molecular testing at the POC gives physicians the opportunity to further improve the standard of care by combining the ability to quickly make a diagnosis and treatment decision during the patient’s initial visit rather than having to wait for hours, if not days, to prescribe a treatment when laboratory testing is used.
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