WHO Issues First-Ever Essential Diagnostic Tests List

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first-ever Essential Diagnostics List, a catalogue of tests required for the diagnosis of common conditions and global “priority” diseases.1

The list is similar to WHO’s Essential Medicines List and is intended to serve as a reference for countries to form or update their own list of essential diagnostics.

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A total of 113 in-vitro tests are currently included in the Essential Diagnostics List. Fifty-eight of these tests are geared towards the detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions, such as urinary tract infection and anemia.

The remaining 55 tests are listed for the detection, diagnosis, and monitoring of “priority” diseases including human immunodeficiency virus, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus, and syphilis.

Each test is described in the catalogue based on type, intended use, format, and if it is appropriate for use in primary health care or in health care facilities with clinical laboratories.

“Our aim is to provide a tool that can be useful to all countries, to test and treat better, but also to use health funds more efficiently by concentrating on the truly essential tests,” said Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals, in a press release.2

“Our other goal is to signal to countries and developers that the tests in the list must be of good quality, safe and affordable,” she added.

The Essential Diagnostics List was formed after an extensive consultation within WHO and externally, and the draft list was subsequently considered for review by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In-Vitro Diagnostics.

The list will be updated on a regular basis and will expand significantly within the next few years, WHO said.

To view the full model Essential Diagnostics List, click here.

—Christina Vogt


1. World Health Organization model list of essential in vitro diagnostics: first edition (2018). World Health Organization. May 16, 2018. Accessed on May 22, 2018.

2. First-ever WHO list of essential diagnostic tests to improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes [press release]. Geneva, Switzerland. World Health Organization. May 15, 2018. Accessed on May 23, 2018.