St. Joseph Health and Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) have partnered to offer increased accessibility to SARS CoV2 (COVID-19) testing for the community through the TVMDL lab at the Texas A&M University campus. Tests conducted at TVMDL will require physician order. This is not a testing site open to the public. This collaboration does however permit the lab to conduct tests in a timelier manner, allowing for patient results delivered in faster.
TVMDL, a component of Texas A&M AgriLife, one of the highest quality and largest volume veterinary laboratories in the United States, recently received CLIA authorization to allow a human healthcare provider to perform COVID-19 testing using their equipment and lab space. CLIA or Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, is CMS’s regulatory authority on human medicine testing.
“I am extremely proud of the work our St. Joseph Health laboratory staff has done along with TVMDL to get this sophisticated molecular testing started,” said Michael Cohen, M.D. Medical Director of Laboratories and Chair of Pathology Department for CHI St. Joseph Health and Managing Director of Brazos Valley Pathology. “This will allow us to provide timely, high volume diagnostic testing locally to care for our patients and support our community.”
Dr. Marcela Jimenez of Brazos Valley Pathology will serve as TVMDL’s medical director overseeing testing efforts.
Laboratory staff from CHI St. Joseph Health will utilize the equipment at TVMDL to run the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, one of the two tests that are currently used to test for COVID-19. PCR swabs are currently collected at all CHI St. Joseph Health Emergency Centers as well as the South College Station Respiratory Clinic.
Through this partnership, CHI St. Joseph Health staff can test up to 500 COVID-19 samples each day, allowing St. Joseph to greatly increase the number of tests performed daily in the community.
“TVMDL is dedicated to protecting both animal and human health,” TVMDL Director Dr. Bruce Akey said. “Typically, we embody that mission through veterinary testing. We now have the opportunity to truly help our human health counterparts and make a lasting impact in the Brazos Valley.”
PCR tests are used to directly detect the presence of an antigen, rather than the presence of the body’s immune response, or antibodies. By detecting viral RNA, which will be present in the body before antibodies form or symptoms of the disease may be present, the tests can tell whether or not someone has the virus very early on.
The test uses a simple nasopharyngeal swab and test results should be expected back within 24-48 hours. Patients should expect to be notified of their results by their provider within CHI St. Joseph Health.
CHI St. Joseph Health currently offers testing for COVID-19 at all five Emergency Centers across the Brazos Valley, as well as the Respiratory Clinic located in South College Station. For more information about symptoms of COVID-19 or how to access care, visit CHIStJoseph.org. For employers who are interested in testing for staff, please visit CHIStJoseph.org/covid-19.