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SBL Moves All COVID-19 Testing In-House

October 15, 2020 11:24 a.m.

  • COVID-19 specimens

Sarah Bush Lincoln was fortunate enough to purchase a high-volume testing unit so it could bring all of the COVID-19 testing into its Lab. It has been outsourcing the testing since March.


With the purchase of a Kingfisher Flex Purification System and Applied Biosystems 7500 FastDx Real Time PCR instrument from ThermoFisher Scientific the Sarah Bush Lincoln Laboratory now runs high-volume COVID-19 testing, with the capacity to result 800 tests in an eight-hour shift.


Most test results will be available within 48 hours depending on when they are collected and delivered to the Lab in Mattoon. People with positive results will continue to receive a telephone call, while those with negative results will receive a letter by mail. All results will flow to the SBL patient portal.

Throughout COVID-19, testing equipment and reagents have both been difficult to purchase due to a nationwide shortage. SBL Laboratory Manager Dave Sowers explained that SBL was able to purchase this equipment through multiple conversations with the Governor’s office. The Governor’s office considered that SBL hosts continuous community testing in a Drive-Thru garage on the Health Center campus and collects and processes a large volume of specimens on campus and from its Reference Lab clients. SBL has processed more than 35,000 specimens since March.


The Kingfisher automates the isolation of RNA from the specimen. The purified nucleic acid is then reverse transcribed in cDNA and amplified using the TaqPath Rt-PCR COVID kit and the Applied Biosystems 7500 FastDX real time PCR instrument.  PCR involves a process of heating and cooling called thermal cycling, with each cycle the copies of viral targets is theoretically doubled. Fluorescent chemistry is coupled to the PCR process which is used to measure the presence of the viral target. Three specific SARS-CoV-2 target sequences are targeted and two of the three must be present for the test to be deemed positive.      


The Kingfisher went live Sept. 28 following training and testing.


SBL also has three other ways to test patients for COVID-19. It is deploying 69 Abbott ID Now units to high traffic areas to test for Influenza A and B, RSV, Strep Throat and Covid-19. This a quick 15-minute test that uses a nasal swab for COVID-19, RSV and Influenza, and a throat swab for Strep Throat. Sowers explained that SBL is limited by the number of tests that can be run weekly due to availability of supplies.


Other testing devices include Cepheid GeneXpert System and BioFire FilmArray, which are used when answers are needed urgently. They, too, include a nasal swab and produce results in 60 minutes.


For more information about the ThermoFisher Scientific system or any COVID-19 testing system, contact Dave Sowers at 217 258-2225.


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