VCU Health develops test for COVID-19

The health system says the in-house test will significantly reduce wait times for results.
Posted at 11:05 AM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 12:33:35-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU Health System announced Wednesday that their physicians have developed their own COVID-19 test for inpatients during a pilot program.

The health system says the in-house test will significantly reduce wait times for results, and in turn will reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection in the community.

Testing during the pilot phase will be mostly available to patients requiring hospitalization who present severe symptoms of COVID-19, and is dependent on supply.

VCU Health says the new test will expand their capacity to promptly confirm and rule out potential COVID-19 diagnoses. They ultimately hope to obtain same-day results.

“Being able to determine whether a patient does or does not have COVID-19 quickly is of critical importance,” said Christopher Doern, Ph.D., director of microbiology at VCU Health. “Being able to do that in our own laboratory will be a game changer in how we manage patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms.”

While materials and reagents necessary for the test remain limited nationwide, VCU Health says their in-house test will primarily be given to patients with a strong suspicion of threatening COVID-19 infection.

“The ability to produce, administer and get results from tests — all within the walls of our academic medical center — allows us to provide quality care while maintaining a safe environment in our hospital,” said Gonzalo Bearman, M.D., director of the VCU Health Infection Prevention Program. “We can promptly rule out COVID-19 for certain patients, enabling us to appropriately tend to those patients’ medical needs, immediately address the urgent needs of those facing the novel coronavirus, and provide our team members more peace of mind.”

VCU Health says they will further develop its in-house testing capabilities and aggressively pursue several diagnostic testing options to meet the testing demands.

“One of the most incredible things is that, 10 days ago, this test didn’t exist,” Doern said. “We designed this test from the ground up in less than two weeks, a process that under normal circumstances would take a year or more.”

The health system says they will also continue to administer tests in collaboration with private and public state health labs for all patients presenting COVID-19 symptoms, whether they require hospitalization or not.