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Tulane School of Medicine launches COVID-19 testing lab to improve capacity

Louisiana

The new COVID-19 testing being done at the medical school will save time from having to ship samples to the state lab in Baton Rouge. The goal is to do about 100 tests a day, with results available within 24 hours. Photo by James Zanewicz.

NEW ORLEANS, La. (KLFY)– Tulane School of Medicine has added a second avenue for COVID-19 testing at a repurposed research lab where results can be processed within a day. 

The test is identical to the PCR test being used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and is another way that Tulane is working to ease the testing crisis and stop the spread of COVID-19, which has hit the New Orleans area especially hard.

Earlier this week, a laboratory based at Tulane Medical Center in partnership with LSU and UMC-LCMC began conducting a different new test for COVID-19 that can yield results within four hours. 

The testing being done at the medical school will save time from having to ship samples to the state lab in Baton Rouge, where because of demand, results can take days, rather than hours, to obtain. 

“Tulane’s efforts could help more quickly triage patients to the appropriate section of the hospital, speed up recruitment into clinical trials for interested patients, and even, over time, provide the ability to determine whether viral loads are affected by various interventions. This information is crucial in our understanding of how to best treat patients.”

Dr. Dahlene Fusco, infectious disease specialist at Tulane University School of Medicine

The School of Medicine test was developed by Tulane virologist Bob Garry and his team in collaboration with Drs. Xiao-Ming Yin and Di Tian in the Department of Pathology. It is based on the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test being used by the CDC, which determines a positive or negative diagnosis through a nasal swab. 

For now, the test is available only to members of the Tulane medical community who show symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing, respiratory struggles and fever. They include patients, health care providers, faculty, staff, residents and students. The goal is to do about 100 tests a day, with results available within 24 hours. 

Eventually, Tulane hopes to double the number of tests and, if possible, extend their availability to the community.

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