The huge impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in some way and sadly, many of our loved ones have died. The NHS has responded rapidly in these challenging times to find a way to diagnose and monitor this disease.
At the beginning of April, the Pathology team at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals set up what is known as a PCR test on swabs taken from people with symptoms of COVID-19, to see whether or not they have the virus. This testing is carried out in the Microbiology department.
The Pathology team has now been asked to become a flagship site, to set up a new and ground-breaking COVID-19 antibody testing facility. This test will tell the team whether or not a person has had the disease and give them an understanding of how many of the population have actually been infected. This will assist in the nationwide track and trace initiative.
The test will be performed in the Clinical Biochemistry Laboratory at the Royal Preston Hospital, using the Roche Covid-19 antibody test. Eventually, many labs in the country with Roche equipment will use this test however, the laboratory at Preston is only one of 4 laboratories that have been initially chosen, to set up and facilitate a testing site for the NHS.
The Clinical Biochemistry laboratory at Preston was chosen because it is one of the most highly advanced automated Clinical Biochemistry Laboratories in England, supported by state of the art informatics and operated by highly skilled scientists. The testing will require the collaboration and teamwork of many departments within Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, working together to carry out the test, process the samples, analyse the findings, collate the results and report on the data.
“I am delighted that the Clinical Biochemistry department has been chosen to be in phase 1 for antibody testing in England. Our advanced automation will allow us to perform thousands of tests a day. The team work between the Clinical Biochemists and Microbiologists will have a major impact in our fight against this wretched disease and once we have carried out some quality checks, it is hoped that we will start to prove the service within 2 weeks” said Dr Myers, Consultant Clinical Biochemist at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, “I would like to thank the excellent highly skilled scientists and clinicians at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals whose reputation has helped in us being chosen to deliver this service”.
Dr David Orr, Clinical Director of Pathology and Consultant Microbiologist said: “This news is most welcome and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals is now at the forefront of measuring both the active disease using the PCR swab test and the antibody test. Having both of these tests available will help us in our fight to beat COVID-19”.