Supported by a grant from M. Roy Wilson, president of Detroit’s Wayne State University, the WSU Physician Group has purchased four new devices that will provide rapid, on-site processing of COVID-19 test samples in Detroit. The units are now in place in Detroit Medical Center hospitals.
The units allow the hospitals to perform tests on high-risk patients in-house to avoid the delays of sending the tests to commercial laboratories. The devices provide results in less than an hour so patients can quickly be isolated.
The four units by Cepheid, a molecular diagnostics company, can process a combined 500 test samples per day.
“Rapid identification to facilitate appropriate isolation of COVID-19 patients is mission-critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the hospital environment and the community,” says Dr. Charles Shanley, president and CEO of the physician group and vice dean of clinical affairs for the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
The Cepheid Xpert Xpress test was approved for emergency use for COVID-19 testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 21. Dr. Wael Sakr, chair of WSU pathology and chief of pathology and laboratory medicine at the DMC and the Karmanos Cancer Institute, helped bring the new technology to Detroit.
“Going live with the in-house testing will vastly help alleviate the currently prolonged turnaround time for COVID-19 test results and will markedly increase the capacity for DMC and WSU/UPG and Karmanos Cancer Center providers to extend the test as appropriate to our patients and health workers,” he says.
In state and commercial labs, the turnaround for sampling can vary from several days to more than a week. In addition to the testing units, the physician group, in coordination with WSU and ACCESS, has been providing COVID-19 testing of symptomatic health care professionals and first responders at sites in Detroit and Dearborn.
Volunteers from the organization have tested more than 2,500 health first line workers to date. Drive-through testing continues at the physician group’s headquarters at 400 Mack Ave. in Detroit.
WSU Health Sciences committed startup funding for equipment to launch the drive-through testing program. The physician group is leading and coordinating the screening effort, which includes health care providers from the group and from the WSU School of Medicine, College of Nursing, School of Social Work, and Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“Our front-line health care workforce is one of our most precious assets in the fight against COVID-19,” Shanley says. “We cannot protect the public without protecting them.”