New Coronavirus Testing at Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins clinical microbiologists Karen Carroll, M.D., and Heba Mostafa, M.B.B.Ch., Ph.D., have developed an in-house coronavirus screening test that may soon allow the health system to test as many as 1,000 people per day. This is important so people can learn quickly if they have COVID-19 and so doctors can test people with whom those patients came in contact.
Johns Hopkins used the test, which analyzes a nasal or oral swab, for the first time on March 11, and about 85 tests were performed in the first three days. Capacity is expected to ramp up quickly, reaching 180 people per day next week and 500 the week after that, says Mostafa. There could be 1,000 tests per day by early April, Mostafa says. The test returns results in about 24 hours, and the doctors say they hope to shorten that time to as little as three hours.
Having an in-house test also reduces the burden on the state laboratory, says Mostafa, increasing testing capacity elsewhere in Maryland. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testing kits, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Feb. 4, have been scarce, slowing efforts to track and contain the virus. On Feb. 29, the FDA began allowing academic medical centers to develop their own tests, which were fast-tracked for approval.
The test is now available at the Johns Hopkins Health System’s five Maryland and Washington hospitals for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath; and who meet other CDC criteria, including travel to countries or states that have high incidences of the disease. A physician’s referral is required.
To protect themselves and others, Carroll and Mostafa urge people to stay away from emergency rooms unless they truly need emergency care. People who feel sick and suspect they have the new coronavirus but who do not need emergency care should call their primary care or specialty care provider, or an urgent care center, and be prepared to describe their symptoms over the phone before arriving.
(Content Courtesy: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coronavirus/screening-test.html)