OSU veterinary school, local lab to test for coronavirus

As the need for coronavirus testing grows, Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has answered the call.

Posted: Apr 16, 2020 6:02 PM
Updated: Apr 16, 2020 6:09 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- As the need for coronavirus testing grows, Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine has answered the call.

Dr. Mark Ackermann is the director for the veterinary diagnostic lab at OSU. For years they have tested for viral infections in animals.

In the wake of this virus, many of their facilities are running with decreased staff, but he knew they could do more to help.

"We've been approached by physicians and physicians groups to assist with COVID-19 testing," said Ackermann.

They have the machinery and the staff to test human samples obtained from nasal swabs typically used for coronavirus testing, but they ran into one major speed bump.

"We are not accredited or certified on the human side," he said.

Enter Willamette Valley Toxicology -- a private lab in Corvallis.

Manny Cruz, the CEO of WVT, said once they have refined the model, he wants to be able to share it with other labs and clinics.

"If we can get the model in place, I want it to reproduce to other places," he said.

Cruz said when the system gets up and running, he hopes he can bring back some of his staff. He was forced to furlough all but one in March.

"We basically joined forces through the county health department to where we could use our accreditations here, bring their instrumentation into our laboratory to actually run and process the testing," he said.

They plan on sending the results back to places like county health departments and physicians.

The team has the capacity to run 500 tests a day, but once they iron out some kinks, they anticipate that number could enter the thousands.

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