UC campuses, medical centers offer in-house COVID-19 testing

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Several UC campuses have begun offering in-house testing for COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, as first reported by the Sacramento Bee.

Hospital labs at UC San Diego, UCLA and UCSF all of which have campus medical centers — have been validated for testing patients that may have COVID-19, according to an email from UC Office of the President spokesperson Stett Holbrook. Health centers at UC Davis and UC Irvine are expected to be operational soon.

“Testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus is at the physician’s discretion, in accordance with guidelines from the CDC,” Holbrook said in an email. “Rest assured that any patients at UC medical centers who meet clinical criteria for testing can get it, if a physician orders the test.”

Researchers at UCSF’s infectious diseases lab developed a rapid polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test onsite, according to UCSF spokesperson Kristen Bole. Using some form of DNA collection — a throat swab, a saliva sample or a stool sample — scientists can extract the virus’s DNA with a PCR test and compare it to existing genetic information about COVID-19.

UCSF has been using the test since March 9, Bole added in an email.

“It was developed by our infectious disease lab, which has been at the forefront of addressing infectious disease outbreaks worldwide,” Bole said in an email. “It is the same type of test being used by the CDC and has been validated by the FDA.”

The UC Davis Medical Center is collaborating with public health agencies in the area, including Sacramento County Public Health, in order to “take the pressure off other testing labs,” according to a press release. Three patients who had contracted COVID-19 were treated at UC Davis within the last two weeks, and all of them appear to be recuperating.

UCSD spokesperson Heather Buschman confirmed in an email that UCSD Health does have limited in-house testing capabilities for COVID-19.

Quest Diagnostics, a clinical laboratory with locations throughout the United States and abroad, introduced a lab-developed test to diagnose COVID-19 on March 9, according to an email from Quest Diagnostics spokesperson Rachel Carr. Health care providers throughout the United States can order the test.

“We are also scaling capacity now with the aim to validate and perform testing at other Quest Diagnostics high-complexity laboratories serving the United States,” Carr said in an email. “We expect to be able to perform tens of thousands of tests a week within the next six weeks.”

As of press time, UC Riverside was confirmed to be awaiting test kits from Quest Diagnostics, according to an email from UC Riverside spokesperson Iqbal Pittalwala.

Megha Krishnan contributed to this report.

Contact Revati Thatte at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @revati_thatte.