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SARS-CoV-2 commands a central theme at the 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo, and this year’s Chair’s Invited Session addresses partnerships between clinical labs and public health groups to better prepare for and control future pandemics. “Over the past two decades, we have seen outbreaks of Ebola, Zika virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), H1N1-2009 influenza, and now COVID-19. All of these pandemics have highlighted the importance of diagnostic testing in both clinical and public health laboratories,” Paul Jannetto, PhD, DABCC, FAACC, chair of the Annual Meeting Organizing Committee, told CLN Stat.

Three speakers will present at this session. Kirsten St. George, PhD, director of the virology laboratory at the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center, will discuss public health lab preparations and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Morgan Pence, PhD, D(ABMM), a clinical microbiologist at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, will relay the challenges a community hospital faced during the pandemic, and lessons learned.

The third presenter, Matthew Binnicker, PhD, director of clinical virology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, will discuss the importance of laboratory testing at the front lines of these crises. “I am interested in Dr. Binnicker’s thoughts on ways that clinical laboratorians and public health professionals can partner to more rapidly and effectively respond to emerging health threats,” said Jannetto.

Responding to questions from CLN Stat, Binnicker said he would build upon his March opinion piece in Clinical Chemistry, which calls for “a robust and sustainable system allowing for rapid development, dissemination, and implementation of diagnostic tests targeted against infectious diseases of global health concern.” The pandemic has highlighted a number of gaps in the current response framework. “We can use this experience to develop a system that allows us to more rapidly and effectively respond to future outbreaks,” said Binnicker.

His talk will bring across the following points:

  • A need exists for a strong partnership among clinical labs, public health, and test manufacturers to prepare for and respond to infectious diseases outbreaks.
  • It’s also necessary to implement diagnostic tests rapidly in clinical laboratories to prevent infectious diseases from spreading in the population.
  • Labs and health officials must start preparing right now for the next pandemic.

“It isn’t a matter of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’ a future pandemic will occur,” cautioned Binnicker.

Participants will learn about the steps that public health laboratories take to prepare for and respond to emerging infectious diseases, and the challenges that public health labs and clinical labs have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lessons learned from COVID-19 “can be used to help us prepare for future outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases,” Binnicker said.

Binnicker likely also will highlight the importance of distributing kits to qualified clinical laboratories beyond typical local public health labs, added Jannetto.

Pandemic Preparedness: The Role of Clinical Laboratories and Public Health in Controlling Outbreaks Representing a Global Health Threat (32113) takes place at the 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo from 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time and is worth 1.5 ACCENT credit hours.

Be sure to attend these other late-breaking sessions on COVID-19 to learn more about the virus’s pathology and the latest initiatives in testing, treatments, and vaccines.