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Rapid COVID-19 testing available at USM clinic

Mon, 08/17/2020 - 13:15pm | By: Margaret Ann Macloud

The University of Southern Mississippi has added another COVID-19 testing platform to its lineup as the fall semester gets underway.

The on-campus clinic in Hattiesburg, Moffitt Health Center, recently obtained a highly sought-after rapid antigen testing device, known as a Sofia2 analyzer. This device is used as a point-of-care diagnostic tool, and it returns results in approximately 15 minutes that are highly specific. The rapid COVID-19 antigen test is a nasopharyngeal swab, similar to the PCR swab. For diagnostic purposes, the rapid test will only be used for symptomatic patients within the first week of their onset of symptoms.

“It’s so important to have multiple testing platforms so we never lose the capability to test patients,” Moffitt Health Center Director Dr. Melissa Roberts said. “You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, especially if there’s a testing shortage for one of the platforms you’re using.”

In addition to the Sofia2 analyzer, the clinic has three Becton Dickinson BD Veritor analyzers that will also be used for the rapid antigen testing. The university also has access to PCR tests with a 24-hour turn-around at its off-campus lab, The Accelerator. The PCR test is even more sensitive than the rapid antigen test.

“We plan to be strategic in how we utilize the various testing platforms.” Roberts explained. “The rapid antigen test will allow for more rapid diagnosis and isolation of positive COVID-19 cases. Because it’s not quite as sensitive as the PCR test, we plan to send a PCR swab on any negative rapid test on symptomatic patients to make sure we don’t miss a false negative”.

“We have done a lot of planning as a university over the last several months for a safe return to the fall semester, and having access to these testing devices plays a large part in that plan to keep students and employees safe and healthy,” Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Dee Dee Anderson said. “Knowing who has tested positive, and knowing that quickly, puts us 10 steps ahead in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on campus.”

The campus health center will also use the SARS-CoV-2 IgG (antibody) blood test which has a turnaround time of one to two days through LabCorp in order to diagnose past COVID-19 infection. USM Athletics has their own Sofia2 analyzer and will use it for routine surveillance testing of athletes who are not symptomatic.