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Testing, Testing

Genomic sequencing and more nimble regulatory approaches could help head off future pandemics in the US, Vox writes.

It says that setting up genomic surveillance programs at carefully selected hospitals in the US could help identify pathogens as they just start to spread more widely. It notes that in a 2020 Scientific American article, David Ecker from Ionis Pharmaceuticals and Janus-I Science estimated that genomic surveillance programs at 200 hospitals in cities with one million or more people could catch an emerging outbreak from just seven patients seeking care.

At the same time, Vox notes that tests need to become quickly available in a pandemic or outbreak. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, samples had to be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing and then outside tests needed authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. This prevented testing from becoming widespread in the US, Vox says.

"If America's massive investment in vaccine research and production in 2020 was its biggest COVID-era triumph, its failure to do the same for testing was the nation's biggest mistake," Vox writes. "A major investment now in genomic sequencing, and a better funding and regulatory framework for diagnostic tests in a future pandemic, could prevent the US from repeating that error."

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