COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Viral sampling kits — usually used on pigs, cows and chickens — are being repurposed into more than 2,000 COVID-19 tests for humans, and will be sent to hospitals across the state, thanks to Aggie innovation and ingenuity.
“No one has ever done this before, but tough times call for creative measures,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. “The very same experts who help track disease outbreaks in animals have put their minds to the biggest problem we all face today, and they’re doing what they can to help.”
The sampling kits are being assembled from lab supplies already in stock at Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory‘s, TVMDL, four labs across the state.
Once assembled, they will be shipped to hospitals in cities with a Texas A&M University System campus to help meet the surge in needed test kits, including campuses in Galveston, McAllen and the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. The university presidents will determine the greatest need for kits in their respective communities.
Bruce Akey, DVM, TVMDL director in College Station, said he sent out a plea for supplies to his labs in Amarillo, Center and Gonzales, and they began overnighting the supplies late last week.
“We are assembling the supplies into sampling kits here in our College Station lab,” Akey said. “We know 2,000 may not seem like much when there are 20-plus million Texans at risk who may need testing. But, if you need to be tested and you can’t right now because they don’t have this kit, then it’s a pretty big deal to you and your family. So, we are doing what we can right now.”
“No ideas or measures are too small in this time when all hands and supplies are needed to help combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “We are proud that our Texas A&M AgriLife agencies and personnel are part of the solution for Texas.”
The kits consist of a swab, a vial with transport media to preserve the sample in the vial, and a bag. The kit components are approved by Food and Drug Administration, FDA, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, for use in sampling humans for the COVID-19 virus. They usually cost about $4 to $5 if ordered in bulk before the pandemic swept through the existing stock. Now, these simple supplies are back-ordered for months, crippling efforts to test humans for COVID-19.
“We hope to get these sampling kits in the hospitals or clinics where they are most needed as soon as possible,” Akey said. “We are pulling out all the stops.”
— Texas A&M AgriLife
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