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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The COVID-19 pandemic forced a testing supply shortage across the country early on.
Oklahomans saw that firsthand months ago, when our state simply did not have enough COVID-19 tests to go around.
Doctors tell KFOR that clinical laboratories across the US were all trying to get their hands on the same testing supplies at the same time.
“We felt like the test needed to be out there and we were having trouble getting reagents for the normal tests” said Joel Guthridge, with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
So researchers with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation teamed up with OU Medicine to come up with a way to create a test right here in our state.
They say they also partnered with the Fluidigm Corporation.
“We had equipment that we thought would be ideal for this,” said Guthridge.
The unique equipment helped to create a local COVID-19 test, which doctors say we need.
“We actually still do have a lot of supply problems and so we have 5-6 different [brands of] tests that we use fairly regularly because we can’t get all of any one thing,” said Dr. Cindy McCloskey, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Pathology at OU Med.
This developed test is a PCR or molecular test.
It uses less reagents so it’s cheaper, and doctors can test more Oklahomans. Doctors also say they tend to be more accurate than antigen tests.
“If you get a negative answer then the more sensitive the test, the more comfortable you can feel that it’s negative,” said Dr. McCloskey.
This specific test catches positives that medical leaders say other tests have missed.
“We wouldn’t be able to test as many people if we didn’t have it and they haven’t even reached the full capacity yet. So if testing becomes more and more necessary and they reach a bottleneck, they will be able to,” said Guthridge.
One of their top priorities is catching the virus early on.
“It’s important to find those low positives so that we don’t miss them and put them back out into the general population,” said Guthridge.
Also, allowing clinics to be ready if that critical supply shortage ever grabs a hold of Oklahoma again.
“It gives us increased capacity and it also gives us a little bit of a safety net in terms of if supply dries up from other manufacturers, you know we still have this in house that we can rely on,” said Dr. McCloskey.
OMRF and OU Medicine were some of the first in the country to receive that Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA for this test.
Now they say months in, other research labs across the state can produce the same kind of testing.
For more details, visit OMRF’s website.