WRITER: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing Communications
More than 2,000 COVID-19 sampling kits will soon be on their way to hospitals across the state, thanks to Aggie innovation and ingenuity.
Viral sampling kits — usually used on pigs, cows and chickens — are being repurposed to sample humans by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station. The sampling kits are being assembled from lab supplies already in stock at TVMDL’s four labs across the state.
Once assembled, they will be shipped to hospitals in towns with a Texas A&M System campus to help meet surge in needed sample kits.
“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 doing what they can to help.”
Bruce Akey, MS, DVM, director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, 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 that 2,000 may not seem like much when there are 20-plus million Texans at risk that may need testing, but if you need to be tested and you can’t right now because they don’t have this sample kit then it’s a pretty big deal to you and your family. So we are doing what we can right now.”
The kits consist of a swab, a vial with transport media to preserve the sample in the vial, and a bag. The components of the kits are approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US 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 you were to order them in bulk before the pandemic swept through the existing stock. Now, these simple supplies are back-ordered for months, crippling efforts to collect human samples for COVID-19 testing.
“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.”
In addition to distributing sample kits, TVMDL has also started the process of donating PPE such as gloves, N95 masks, and goggles to local agencies. To date, TVMDL has donated over 400 items. As equipment needs expand, TVMDL will continue to donate PPE.