MORRISTOWN, NJ (Morris County) – In a breakthrough that will give better insight into how and where COVID-19 variants are spreading within New Jersey, Atlantic Health System is among the first hospitals in the region to be able to rapidly screen for key viral variants.
The organization will begin surveillance testing for COVID-19 variants for population health using internally developed PCR-based tests, as well as partnering with Seegene, Inc., using their recently developed research-use variant detection multiplex tests to rapidly screen for multiple variants – specifically the UK, Brazilian and South African variants. Atlantic Health plans to continue developing tests to identify additional strains such as the California and New York variants.
This test, performed via a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, which searches for the genetic material of viruses such as COVID-19, allows Atlantic Health to take a patient’s sample and not only determine whether they are positive for the virus, but whether they have one of these variants, all within a matter of hours.
“Since the start of the pandemic, rapid testing has remained one of the most important and elusive tools we have,” said Brian Gragnolati, president and CEO of Atlantic Health System. “Similar to the challenges we faced with testing for the original strain last spring, the inability to quickly identify variants makes it difficult to track their spread. Using this new genetic test, Atlantic Health is leading the way in protecting our community.”
Testing will be done in-house at Atlantic Consolidated Laboratory, which earlier this year began performing all COVID-19 testing in-house, dramatically reducing the time needed to provide results to patients. Atlantic Health laboratories run between 1,500 and 2,000 COVID tests per day.
“We have dramatically enhanced our capabilities with the most advanced and reliable testing for COVID-19, which has helped us streamline and facilitate care,” said Lisa McFarlane, PhD, MLS, director of laboratory services for Atlantic Health System. “Being able to detect variants is the next step in caring for our patients, while keeping our caregivers and facilities safe.”