VCU Health develops in-house COVID-19 test


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Commonwealth University Health System has developed an in-house COVID-19 test for a pilot program meant for inpatients, the university announced Wednesday.

VCU Health aims to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus with its in-house test by “significantly” reducing wait times for test results. The university plans to continue developing its testing capabilities and pursue other options in order to meet the demands for testing.

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

RELATED: VCU researchers begin clinical trials for treatment COVID-19

With the lack of testing kits available, more independently developed tests have been created. VCU’s tests were created from the ground up in just 10 days at the health system’s microbiology lab. The testing is in a pilot phase where most kits will be available to patients with severe symptoms who require hospitalization.

“One of the most incredible things is that, 10 days ago, this test didn’t exist,” Doern continued. “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. It speaks to the extraordinary work of VCU Health medical technologists and microbiologists in the face of a global pandemic.”

Dr. Danny Avula, the director of the Richmond and Henrico health districts, said Wednesday that there is a lack of testing kits from the federal government and independent tests take the pressure off the state lab.

“It really relieves some of the burden placed on the state lab and other outpatient testing facilities because it can create more options, so now UVA and VCU can really rely on their own internal testing for many of their hospitalized patients and get much faster results.”

Avula told WRIC that results from independent tests can come back in just four hours. VCU Health aims to get results back to patients the same day the test is administered.

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