This year’s list has expanded to include more non-communicable and communicable diseases
The first List of Essential Diagnostics was published in 2018, concentrating on a limited number of priority diseases – HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. This year’s list has expanded to include more non-communicable and communicable diseases.
Given how critical it is to secure an early cancer diagnosis (70 per cent of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries largely because most patients are diagnosed too late), WHO added 12 tests to the diagnostics list to detect a wide range of solid tumours such as colorectal, liver, cervical, prostate, breast and germ cell cancers, as well as leukaemia and lymphomas. To support appropriate cancer diagnosis, a new section covering anatomical pathology testing was added; this service must be made available in specialised laboratories.
The list focusses on additional infectious diseases prevalent in low- and middle-income countries such as cholera, and neglected diseases like leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis, dengue and Zika. In addition, a new section for influenza testing was added for community health settings where no laboratories are available.
The list was also expanded to include additional general tests which address a range of different diseases and conditions, such as iron tests (for anaemia) and tests to diagnose thyroid malfunction and sickle cell (an inherited form of anaemia very widely present in Sub-Saharan Africa).
Another notable update is a new section specific to tests intended for screening of blood donations. This is part of a WHO-wide strategy to make blood transfusions safer.
“The List of Essential Diagnostics was introduced in 2018 to guide the supply of tests and improve treatment outcomes. As countries move towards universal health coverage and medicines become more available, it will be crucial to have the right diagnostic tools to ensure appropriate treatment,” said Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director-General for Medicines and Health Products.