CHICAGO, Dec. 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The opioid epidemic has only gotten worse since the advent of COVID-19, with some areas in the U.S. reporting a 50% increase in drug overdoses due to the pandemic. With no end in sight to this public health crisis, scientific sessions during the virtual 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo will highlight the integral role of clinical laboratories in efforts to manage it, as well as the latest drug tests needed to do so.
The Role of Labs on the Frontline of the Crisis
Synthetic opioids are responsible for nearly half of the drug overdoses in the U.S., yet many of these drugs aren't included in standard drug testing panels and new synthetic drugs are emerging every year. In the session, "Avoiding the Bleeding Edge of the Opioid Epidemic," three experts from the leading forensic and clinical laboratory NMS Labs—Frederick Strathmann, PhD; Donna Papsun, MS, D-ABFT-FT; and Alex Krotulski, PhD—will explain how labs' toxicology expertise is central to making sure that drug testing keeps pace with these rapidly evolving trends. In particular, this session will underscore the power of partnerships between laboratories and federal agencies to monitor the latest designer drugs, as well as the critical role that labs play in keeping these agencies informed about new drugs as they come on the scene.
"What we want attendees to take away from this session is the complexity associated with labs keeping up with the latest drug trends," said Dr. Strathmann. "Also, how strong of a partnership there is amongst labs, public agencies, and private agencies to make sure we are doing what we can to stop the opioid epidemic."
The speakers will also give an in-depth description of the entire drug testing process, from when drugs are first seized to testing postmortem samples.
The Best Tests for Combating the Opioid Epidemic
In a second session, "Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogs: From Overdose to Outbreaks to Laboratory Detection," toxicology experts Sarah Riley, PhD, of St. Louis University, and Kara Lynch, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco, will take an even deeper dive into the ongoing fight against deadly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, with a focus on what the most effective methods are for detecting these drugs. Dr. Riley and Dr. Lynch will explain how each of the major drug testing methods work, and will provide insight into why the most common type of drug test—the immunoassay—is no longer sufficient to meet the unique challenges of the opioid epidemic. They will also discuss how labs can improve their testing capabilities with more advanced methods such as mass spectrometry and quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry.
"We hope to make it evident that immunoassay platforms are just not able to keep up with the everchanging drug trends that we are seeing now, and present approaches for laboratories to either expand testing or collaborate with colleagues to keep up with drug trends," said Dr. Riley.
Other breaking research on the opioid epidemic to be presented at the 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting includes a study on a new urine test for fentanyl analogs. The meeting will also feature a second study that looked at response to opioid analgesia in patients at three hospitals, and found that interactions between opioids and certain prescription drugs increases the risk of opioid addiction.
About the 2020 AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo The AACC Annual Scientific Meeting offers 5 days packed with opportunities to learn about exciting science from December 13-17, all available on an online platform. This year, there is a concerted focus on the latest updates on testing for COVID-19, including a talk with current White House Coronavirus Task Force testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir. Plenary sessions include discussions on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve patient outcomes, new therapies for cancer, creating cross-functional diagnostic management teams, and accelerating health research and medical breakthroughs through the use of precision medicine.
At the virtual AACC Clinical Lab Expo, more than 170 exhibitors will fill the digital floor with displays and vital information about the latest diagnostic technology, including but not limited to SARS-CoV-2 testing, mobile health, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, point-of-care, and automation.
About AACC Dedicated to achieving better health through laboratory medicine, AACC brings together more than 50,000 clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists, and business leaders from around the world focused on clinical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, translational medicine, lab management, and other areas of progressing laboratory science. Since 1948, AACC has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing programs that advance scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise, and innovation. For more information, visit www.aacc.org.