North Carolina gets first spit-based COVID-19 test

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APEX, N.C. (WNCN) – The work load at Vero Diagnostics is higher than ever.

“We are busting at the seems right now. We are here from seven in the morning until midnight some days,” said Dipesh Shah, co-owner of Vero Diagnostics.

The team has turned their focus on processing COVID-19 tests. Currently, they can process about 3,000 tests per day. That’s expected to go up 10,000 with saliva-based testing.

Vero Diagostics has teamed up with Fluidigm to bring a new machine that can process samples in about a third of the time.

“It’s something that communities need. It’s something that will help communities get back to work, schools get back to schools. It will help to eliminate the need to wait for a long time,” said Mark Lynch, the company’s director of microfluidics for the Americas.

Lynch said saliva tests are less invasive. Half of the process is automated. The method was ideal for workers in the health field who experience more frequent testing.

“They were getting tired of poking a stick up their nose all the time to get tested. A majority of our clients are required to test weekly,” said Shah.

Quicker turn around times are crucial to slowing the spread and starting treatments.

“In a 24-hour period, you can get up to 6,000 tests with one system and one set of technicians,” said Lynch.

Shah said weekly testing detected COVID-19 in their own asymptomatic employee. Rapid results ensured he could get into quarantine right away.

“If he was not aware that he was positive, he would still be spreading the coronavirus to the rest of the office as well as his friends and family,” Shah said.

While Vero Diagnostics can process tests quicker, Lynch said the time it takes a person to get that result back still depends on where the sample is taken.

The testing method is not yet widely available. Labs or clinics have to contract with Vero Diagnostics for spit tests as they currently have Fluidigm’s only machine that can run the test.

New method to test for both flu and COVID-19

The similarities in symptoms for COVID-19 and the flu have medical professionals concerned. The CDC lists the following as symptoms that appear in both virus.

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

Knowing whether you have COVID-19 or the flu is critical to understanding what kind of treatment to seek before your illness becomes too severe.

Next week, Vero Diagnostics said it planned to introduce a new test that would look for Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Influenza A, Influenza B, and COVID-19. Rather than running individual tests for each virus, one test can detect any of the four.

While the new saliva-based test is capable of conducting this type of test, the flu-coronavirus combination test will use the nose swab for most tests.

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