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COVID-19 Laboratory Testing Update

COVID-19 testing is performed using PCR technology (i.e. to detect the viral RNA). Test sensitivity is dictated by the amount of virus on the swab and is therefore influenced by (1) the timing of the test in relation to the symptoms and (ii) the quality of the sample (operator-dependent). A test should be interpreted in light of the pre-test probability (severity of symptoms, their level of exposure, the disease in the contact); no test is 100% sensitive or specific.

Serological testing is NOT available currently (27th March 2020).

• COVID19 RNA is detected on a Nasopharyngeal swab (Red COPAN or Yellow COBAS) by PCR (or BAL if on ITU)
• Follow Trust guidelines as on HUB
• All samples need to be requested on Medway using the “COVID-19” request
• Do not send repeat swabs unless agreed by Micro
• If unable to use Medway, use Virology form (we would rather you didn’t)
• If Flu testing is also required, please write this in clinical details
• Place swab into clear bag and then blue bag (i.e. DOUBLE bagged)
• Place sample into rigid red transport boxes (at present on ITU, AMU, MTU, Torridge, Bramble and ED)
• Porters will collect swabs from above wards every two hours starting from 6:00am (this is a 24 hour service) and take directly to Old Path Lab
• No need to telephone Porters for Virology samples (though urgent blood samples will need portering to Blood Sciences in A template)
• All other samples from patients need to have ?COVID in clinical details as they need to be handled separately in the lab
• There is no need to telephone the lab in advance if the patient meets the case definition (the case definition may change so check HUB)
• Samples are processed daily 7 days a week, so expect a result the same day if the sample arrives before 1800
• Positive results will be telephoned; negative results will NOT be telephoned and you need to check Medway or IPS
Please do not ring for results – we are inundated with telephone calls

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