Sometimes a small thing makes me sit back for a second and ponder just how wonderful it is to be alive in this day and age. This past Saturday, my 4-year-old daughter A. developed a fever, but other than that seemed fine. On Sunday she was worse, and my wife noticed some telltale white spots on one of her tonsils.
We got an emergency visit at her pediatrician's office at 10am, and she was examined by a nurse practitioner. The nurse did a rapid strep test, and the result was positive (just barely). She prescribed an antibiotic which we picked up from the drug store at 11:30, and by the evening, A.'s fever was gone, her throat no longer hurt, and she was back to her spunky precocious self.
In less than a day -- on a Sunday, no less -- an infection was accurately diagnosed and treated, and my daughter's life was back to normal, but for the twice daily spoonfuls of pink medicine (luckily, her favorite color). This was my first encounter with the rapid strep test, and I just shook my head in wonder at how amazing it is that such a thing exists. I remember getting strep as a child and waiting two days for the cultures to come back. I believe the pediatrician just gave me antibiotics right away based on his judgment and the look of my throat, but the confirmation of the diagnosis was 48hrs away. On Sunday, it took 5 minutes.
Penicillin was discovered just 80 years ago, and before that, something that now seems run-of-the-mill, like a case of strep throat, could be dire. A Group A strep infection can be serious in some cases if left untreated, leading to heart valve, kidney, liver and joint problems from a post-infection autoimmune response. Now, not only do we have antibiotics to attack the infection, we have a relatively inexpensive 5 minute-long test that gives doctors a higher level of certainty in their diagnosis while the patient is still in the room, and it can be acted upon immediately.
Consider this a tip of my hat to the scientists, doctors and entrepreneurs who make things like this possible.