Bassem Bibi

Divisional Vice President for Abbott’s Rapid Diagnostic Business in the Middle East & Africa

“Abbott has developed and launched 12 tests to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its antibodies”

Abbott has developed and launched 12 tests to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its antibodies and has so far delivered more than 1 billion tests globally. “Hospitals” magazine recently interviewed Mr. Bassem Bibi, Divisional Vice President for Abbott’s rapid diagnostic business in the Middle East & Africa who talked about Abbott’s rapid diagnostic tests and their role in detecting the virus.

What’s Abbott’s most important to contribution in curbing the spread of  the coronavirus?

Since the onset of the pandemic, diagnostics have been a focal point of the COVID-19 response and Abbott’s main goal has been to get as many tests as possible to as many people as possible. From the very beginning, we knew that no individual test would work in all settings, so we invested in R&D to quickly develop a suite of tests and manufacture them at a massive scale. Since early 2020, Abbott has developed and launched 12 tests to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its antibodies and has so far delivered more than 1 billion tests globally. Besides, Abbott has continued to make its full portfolio of nutritional, pharmaceutical and medical device products and solutions available to the people we serve around the world.

In many countries, rapid testing has demonstrated its worth as a viable tool in fighting the pandemic; how did Abbott play a role in that perspective?

Rapid testing isn’t new to the Middle East and Africa – Abbott has worked in the region for decades to bring affordable and accessible rapid tests for malaria, hepatitis, HIV, and other infectious diseases. In 2018 and 2019, Abbott supported the 100 Million SEHA campaign launched by the Ministry of Health in Egypt to screen the entire population of Egypt for hepatitis C by providing our rapid tests. Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more countries around the world have turned to rapid tests, like our Panbio and ID NOW tests, as an effective tool in limiting the spread of the virus and bringing the economy back to its feet.

Panbio Ag COVID-19 rapid test is one of several tests developed by Abbott. Can you explain what makes it so useful?

Abbott’s Panbio™ COVID-19 Ag Rapid Test Device is an accurate and affordable tool for healthcare professionals to detect active coronavirus infections at a massive scale to help slow virus spread. Panbio is one of the most widely studied rapid antigen tests in the world for COVID-19, with dozens of published studies, reaffirming its ability to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in people, especially those who are infectious and therefore most likely to spread the virus.

Abbott also obtained the CE Mark for the Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test on June 26th.  This easy-to-use test allows people to test in the privacy of their homes by using a simple nasal swab (not the deep nasopharyngeal swab) with simple instructions to follow. With results available in 15 minutes, the test delivers results quickly enough to prevent people who are infected from potentially spreading the virus to others—and gets them back to school, work or living with more confidence. Rapid diagnostics like these are important to connect people with answers about their health – quickly – and puts them in greater control of their own care.  

Can anyone use the Panbio Ag Self-Test on their own or do they require healthcare assistance?

Adults can perform the test on their own, whereas children under 14 years need the help of an adult caretaker to help collect the nasal samples and conduct the test procedures. The real value of these self-tests is that they can be performed by anyone, anywhere testing may be needed – helping to give people more confidence and slow infection transmission. 

What’s the sensitivity and specificity of the Panbio Ag Self-Test?

In clinical evaluations with self-test users, the test correctly identified 95.2% of positive samples and 100% of negative samples. All samples were confirmed positive or negative by the Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test Device (Nasopharyngeal).

How many Panbio Ag rapid tests has Abbott distributed so far?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Abbott has distributed over 1 billion Panbio COVID-19 antigen tests around the world.

What other COVID-19 rapid tests has Abbott launched in the Middle East?

In addition to Panbio Ag (Nasal and Nasopharyngeal) Professional Use and Panbio Ag Self-Test, Abbott has launched in the Middle East the ID NOW™ platform, a rapid molecular test which is small, lightweight (3.0kg) and portable (the size of a small toaster), and uses nucleic acid amplification technology, which is valued by clinicians for its high degree of accuracy. The easy-to-use ID NOW test delivers results in 13 minutes or less, providing timely health information when it’s needed most. 

How does rapid tests help the economy recover?

Thanks to their ease of use, reliability, affordability and fast results, rapid tests can play an important role in bringing the economy back to its feet. Abbott’s ID NOW device has been deployed as a confirmatory test in several leading airports and trade events around the Middle East, making it a valuable and effective tool to slow the spread of COVID-19 and support local and national programs. On the other hand, Panbio Ag and Panbio Ag Self-Test have demonstrated their great worth in providing invaluable information for symptomatic people with regard to their COVID-19 status. 

While the tests are important to confirm COVID-19 cases, help slow the spread and promote economies to recover, the data and insights about positivity rate, hospitalizations and case numbers and also essential public health tools. To facilitate easier monitoring, tracking and reporting of rapid test data, Abbott has developed its Sympheos™ connectivity solution. This system combines the Panbio rapid antigen test with a mobile app, web portal, and visual dashboard reporting tool so that healthcare providers and local officials can access decentralized test data in real-time and deploy resources where they are needed most. 

Test data uploaded into the Sympheos system provides real-time data to decision-makers, which is critical to deploying resources to locations experiencing disease outbreaks. It supports officials to monitor cases, understand positivity rate and act quickly when identifying an outbreak. 

We have many tools at our disposal to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and help the economy recover – rapid tests, monitoring and surveillance, vaccines and mitigation measures. But it must be a combination of these public health tools, working in partnership, that will help us slow the spread of the virus and support the recovery of economies across the globe.

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