New program accelerates infectious disease response

Point-of-care tests to detect and treat key infectious diseases will be expanded in 300 health centres in four countries thanks to a new program led by UNSW. 

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Professor Carla Treloar, director of the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH) at UNSW Sydney, has been named as one of the chief investigators on a new Centres of Research Excellence (CRE) grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The project, titled Accelerated Implementation of New Point-of-Care Technology for Infectious Diseases, will focus on scaling up new point-of-care diagnostic technologies for infectious diseases of global importance, including HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HPV and STIs.

Point-of-care tests enable infectious disease testing and treatment to be provided on the same day.

“The first step to treating an infectious disease is to provide accurate and timely testing,” Professor Treloar said.

“Technology advances have meant that point-of-care tests are available for many diseases, but the availability of these tests doesn’t guarantee that they will be used and used most effectively.

Point-of-care tests present an opportunity to shift testing to primary health care, for the immediate benefit of hard-to-reach patients.

“This CRE will bring together the relevant disciplines to examine the factors that influence use of these new technologies.”

In Australia, point-of-care tests present an opportunity to shift testing to primary health care, for the immediate benefit of hard-to-reach patients.

For people in rural and remote communities, long distances, staff turnover, and social and cultural factors can prevent individuals returning to a clinic for a follow up visit, meaning that infectious diseases can often be left untreated.

In the Asia-Pacific, point-of-care tests are recommended, but uptake remains low in many countries, due to a range of other barriers.

The project will take place across 300 primary health care services in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and Indonesia and is being led by Professor Rebecca Guy, Head of the Surveillance Evaluation and Research Program at the Kirby Institute, UNSW.  

“Our previous work in this area has shown that point-of-care testing in primary care works to improve infectious disease diagnosis in remote Aboriginal communities in Australia, and the CRE collaboration is well placed to scale up this method in other settings in Australia and our region,” Professor Guy said.

“This project will break down barriers to treatment access, ultimately leading to major reductions in the associated illnesses, and improvements in the overall health of these communities.”

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