Our focus on infectious disease is unwavering

As coronavirus containment measures across Australia and New Zealand have proven their worth, and vaccine roll out gathers pace, we can envision a day when COVID-19 does not dominate our lives as it has in the last eighteen months.

The pandemic is a constant reminder as to why infectious disease is our focus at Abbott.

As this edition explores, variants of concern continue to challenge public health responses, and potentially limit the effectiveness of certain SARS-CoV-2 tests. We must stay ahead of emerging viral mutations. Abbott has a longstanding Global Viral Surveillance Program and recently announced the formation of the Abbott Pandemic Defense Coalition - a first-of-its-kind global scientific network dedicated to the early detection of, and rapid response to, future pandemic threats. The coalition builds on Abbott's decades of exploration in virus surveillance and helps to analyse virus samples in the search for unknown diseases along with detecting mutations and variants. This crucial work may help identify future emerging pathogenic threats.

As we see vaccinations roll out, there could be a role for rapid testing, as leading epidemiologist Dr Mary-Louise McLaws contends. Estimating around 19% of the population to remain unprotected after vaccine roll out, rapid antigen tests could potentially augment gold standard nucleic acid (PCR) testing. There may also be a place for appropriate antibody testing to not only assess natural immune response but also consider the efficacy and durability of vaccines in individuals as we look to learn how to live with SARS-CoV-2.

At the same time, we advance on other enduring and complex infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B virus (HBV), where we examine the possible opportunities that arise from a new ultra-sensitive surface antigen (screening) marker. The design of this assay allows earlier detection and could potentially drive more refined treatment for those living with chronic liver disease associated with HBV, and improve HBV mutation detection.

There are challenges still associated with COVID-19: international borders remaining closed presents issues for supply chains and channels of freight inescapably linked with Australia and New Zealand’s geographical location. The tyranny of distance is a reality all suppliers are subject to, we are doing our best to navigate these challenges, just as you and your teams are as well.

These times amplify our message that pathology plays a crucial role in managing infectious diseases - and other diseases - to give opportunity for improved prevention, and or early management of disease.