Johns Hopkins clinical microbiologists Karen Carroll, M.D., and Heba Mostafa, M.B.B.Ch., Ph.D., created an in-house coronavirus screening test that will eventually require up to 1,000 people a day to be screened by the health system.
It is important so that people can know easily if they have coronavirus (COVID-19) and that doctors can check people who come into contact with those patients.
Mostafa, assistant professor of pathology and director of the molecular virology laboratory at The Johns Hopkins Hospital said: “We will be able to diagnose more cases. This will allow the control of exposure.”
“Ability is expected to ramp up quickly, hitting 180 people a day next week, and 500 a week later,” Mostafa said.
In early April, there could be 1,000 tests a day, according to Mostafa.
“It also decreases the pressure on the state laboratory by providing an in-house test,” Mostafa affirmed, increasing research capability elsewhere in Maryland.
She added: “The test was not difficult to design. The hard part was obtaining the requisite viral genomic material or virus to perform the validation, as well as the reagents needed to perform the test.” “We were able to complete the validation in a short time, once we had everything we wanted”.
The test is now available at five hospitals in Maryland and Washington under the Johns Hopkins Health System.
The test kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were scarce, slowing down attempts to monitor and contain the virus.
On Feb. 29, the FDA began to require academic medical centers to create their own, fast-tracked tests for approval.
The study comes in about 24 hours, and the doctors say they are trying to shorten the time to as little as 3 hours.
For the first time on March 11, Johns Hopkins used the device, which analyzes a nasal or oral swab, and in the first three days, about 85 experiments were carried out.
“Testing is very useful in detecting cases so that epidemiologists can then contact individuals that are considered to be positive and make suggestions regarding home isolation and further follow-up,” says Carroll, pathology professor and director of the Johns Hopkins Division of Medical Microbiology. “We want people to stay home if they’re sick.”
Those who feel sick and think they have the latest coronavirus but do not need medical treatment should contact their primary care or specialty care provider, or an emergency care facility, and be prepared to explain their symptoms over the phone before they arrive. “We urge people to call and converse with a competent health care provider,” says Carroll.
Testing is available 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.
Carroll and Mostafa advise people to stay away from emergency rooms when they really need emergency treatment, to protect themselves and others.