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The Science Behind Identifying Infectious Diseases

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Sudeb Dalai

Medical Director, Karius, Inc. and Infectious Disease Physician, Sutter Health

What is the future of infectious disease diagnostics in the context of transplants?

There is a considerable need to develop new strategies to rapidly diagnose complex and life-threatening infections in transplant patients. Transplant ID diagnostics will need increased speed, sensitivity, accuracy, and comprehensiveness, targeting the range of bacteria, fungi, and viruses affecting this susceptible population. Integration between molecular biology, bioinformatics, and engineering is already helping bridge the diagnostic gap.

What’s one thing you wish more people knew about this process?

Developing a new diagnostic test is challenging, costly, time-consuming, and held to exceedingly high standards. Designing and conducting proper clinical studies that demonstrate accuracy, utility, and outcomes take considerable planning and resources. As physicians playing an integral role in these studies, we approach them with the same rigor and professionalism that we have for each patient we see in practice.

What’s one popular myth about this field you’d like to dispel?

One common myth is that current and emerging strategies for diagnosing infections in transplant recipients will be sufficient. While our field is making tremendous advances, these will likely be mitigated by the emergence of novel pathogens, multidrug-resistant organisms and hypervirulent strains. Continual vigilance and innovation will be needed to effectively diagnose and manage infections in the constantly evolving microbial landscape.

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