UNC doctors developing test to spot coronavirus, diagnose patients

Orange County News

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Dr. Melissa Miller and others at UNC are keeping tabs on the coronavirus outbreak.

For weeks, their team has been working in Chapel Hill developing a test to spot the virus and diagnose patients.

“We’re going to detect specific sequences that are only found in that virus, and we can do this fairly rapidly,” Miller told CBS 17. “It’s a very sensitive test. That means it picks up a very small amount of the virus that might be present in the specimen.”

Miller said the test involves taking samples, including nose and throat swabs, and mucus from the lungs.

“This test is one of the many tests that we can perform on your respiratory sample to say whether you have the flu, or COVID-19, or some other infection,” she said.

When asked who should be getting the test, Miller told CBS 17, “It’s something that UNC is working through right now.”

As far as what types of symptoms will people need to have to go through this test, Miller said, “It’s basically a fever and a cough. Of course, we want to focus on those who are more critically ill. Many patients, we really don’t know who’s asymptomatic, and has COVID-19 yet.”

Miller said researchers have past experience creating tests for emerging viruses with the potential to be a pandemic.

“We always hope that we build the test and we never have to use it,” she said.

She and others hope to start patient testing early next week while working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on approval.

“To be kind of in the limelight, and potentially part of the solution to the outbreak, we’re very excited for,” Miller said.

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