April 21, 2020

NPV brings COVID-19 testing in house

Northern Pathology has successfully implemented onsite testing for COVID-19, with a turnaround of one to three hours.

Previously, all tests for COVID-19 were referred to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory (VIDRL), with some delay in results due to the high demands on their services.

Dr Frank Hong, Director of NPV, explained, “one of the major benefits of bringing the testing onsite is the marked improvement in turn-around time.“

“Our local testing capacity will build up over time, with the addition of more equipment and testing kits. Currently our tests are being performed on patients that require urgent results, like those in ICU, ” he added.

“Our goal is to be able to test everyone coming to the Northern Hospital in the future, and we are hoping that would happen late May to early June”.

Jennifer Stuchbery, Senior Scientist – Microbiology, said that the in-house test works by detecting genetic material from the virus that is present in specimens collected from patient’s nose and throat. She was extremely happy with the performance of the in-house test, stating that results obtained so far have shown that it is comparable to those results obtained at VIDRL.

“We are in the process of training more staff to perform the test, so that once more testing kits arrive, we can offer these tests to a larger number of our patients and health care workers,” she said.

Dr Prahlad Ho, Program Director Diagnostic Services, said that it was a huge effort from the team to set up the molecular laboratory within weeks from scratch.

“In most laboratories this would take months. I am proud to say that we have been able to achieve it in two to three weeks. We are looking at introducing not just one technology for COVID-19 testing, but three technologies, which allows for high volume testing. This would significantly contribute to our ability as a health service to diagnose and appropriately manage unwell patients presenting with respiratory symptoms, as we head into the influenza season,” he said.

Featured image (left to right): Yvonne Hersusianto, Head of Microbiology and Jennifer Stuchbery, Senior Microbiologist from Northern Pathology Victoria