South Dakota State University students can know within 24 to 48 hours whether they are positive for COVID-19, thanks to Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory on campus at the South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory on campus.

ADRDL director Jane Christopher Hennings said, “Diagnosing COVID-19-positive individuals as soon as possible is an essential part of slowing the virus spread.” ADRDL, which has both biosafety level 2 and 3 laboratories, is one of more than 20 laboratories in the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Animal Health Laboratory Network certified to do human testing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The One Health Laboratory uses the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test, the same test the South Dakota Department of Health performs to diagnose COVID-19. Thus far, One Health has met COVID-19 testing needs for SDSU’s Student Health Clinic and Counseling Services, but the laboratory is available to support the South Dakota Department of Health’s testing efforts, if needed.

“Our scientists run about 200,000 PCR tests every year on animals alone, so we are used to doing this type of high complexity, high throughput testing,” Hennings said. ADRDL scientists have played a key role in diagnosing animal disease outbreaks, such as the highly pathogenic avian influenza and porcine coronaviruses.

Hennings, who is also head of SDSU’s Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, was aware in March the state might need assistance with human COVID-19 testing. She and her staff moved quickly when they received the official request in July.

Through a partnership with Avera Health and Physician’s Laboratory Ltd., the new One Health Laboratory received approval by Aug. 4 to do human COVID-19 testing as prescribed by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988.  The human testing is done in a separate BSL3 laboratory within the ADRDL facility.

“It has really been a team effort aimed at increasing our COVID testing capacity,” said SHCCS associate director Brenda Andersen. Her staff has three rapid point-of-care testing machines with which they can process three samples every 15 minutes. However, she pointed out, “When it comes to running large numbers of samples, we like the PCR system.”

More than 600 students were tested for COVID-19 in the three days prior to Thanksgiving. “This makes a big difference in terms of capacity,” she added.

“The Student Health Clinic has been a great partner,” Hennings said. The clinic orders the tests and keeps track of the personal information. “We get a tube with a swab in it for testing and a bar code on it. The PCR test takes about three hours and we can run as many as 186 samples at one time. Typically, if we get the samples by noon, we can have our results done by later that afternoon.”

The results are recorded based on the bar codes and sent to the student health clinic where staff matches the code to the personal information to notify the students as well as the S.D. DOH. Electronic records have further streamlined the notification process.

Daniel Scholl, SDSU vice president for research and economic development, said, “We are thankful for how everyone has worked together on this viral testing strategy to protect our students. Dr. Hennings and her team have done exemplary work to launch the One Health Diagnostic Laboratory, while maintaining ADRDL’s high level of services to animal health.”


COURTESY OF: SDSU Marketing & Communications

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