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(SACRAMENTO) — Since testing for COVID-19 began two months ago, UC Davis Health has reached a milestone, performing its 10,000th molecular test.
“I am very proud of our clinical pathology teams, who have worked tirelessly to get our essential COVID-19 tests validated and available to our patients, employees and community,” said Iyda Antony, director of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC Davis Health.
On March 19, the hospital went live with its first molecular COVID-19 test, which uses PCR, or polymerase chain reaction methodology, to identify specific genes of the SARS CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. The molecular specimen is collected using a nasopharyngeal swab.
Over the last two months, UC Davis Health clinical pathology departments were heavily involved in validating molecular COVID tests on four different platforms: AB StepOne Plus, Roche 6800, GenMark and BD Max. In addition to validating the sensitivity, specificity and detection limits of these instruments, the team also validated many kinds of viral transport media and swabs to ensure optimum specimen stability.
“We quickly mobilized our expertise to validate and provide molecular COVID-19 testing in only 19 days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed regulations that allowed university clinical laboratories to offer testing to support their communities,” said Lydia P. Howell, professor and chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UC Davis Health.
“Our clinical pathology team performed molecular testing on 10,000 COVID specimens from UC Davis patients and staff as well as residents at nursing homes, local community hospitals and other long-term facilities that did not have testing capabilities,” said Howell.
During the pandemic, the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine worked with hospital leadership to establish robust pathways with 30 hospitals and health care facilities throughout the region, streamlining the receipt and molecular testing of COVID-19 specimens.
Howell wanted to recognize the unsung heroes who contributed to the successful testing effort, including Mike Condrin and the primary care clinic staff who gathered specimens from the community as well as the IT and EPIC team who made the instrument interfaces.
"In the last month, we tested nearly 150 patient samples from Shriner’s Hospital for Children Northern California,” Antony said. “It’s heart-warming to know that the results of our testing allowed essential pediatric surgeries to take place.”
As California and other states move forward with the careful re-opening of businesses and services, UC Davis pathology leaders continue their leading-edge work to advance knowledge about the novel coronavirus.
Howell is serving on a committee for the University of California (UC) Office of President to advise on testing and how it should appropriately be used to support the safe re-opening of all 10 UC campuses this fall. She is joined by Stuart Cohen, chief of infectious diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine, along with Nam Tran, senior medical director of clinical pathology. Tran is also a member of Governor Gavin Newsom’s California Coronavirus Testing Task Force.
“With the support of leaders throughout the university, we are working together to navigate the uncertainties of the novel coronavirus and develop accurate tests that will arm us with the knowledge to make safe health choices for our families, our workplaces and society,” Antony said.
UC Davis Health is actively pursuing studies to identify antibodies that may confer immunity to COVID-19.
As of May 20, California had 84,057 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,436 deaths related to the virus.