Hank Mullins, a faculty member for nearly 30 years in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), passed away in July at age 69. Mullins grew up in the Hudson Valley village…
From the Testing Center to Your Inbox: How COVID-19 Samples Get Analyzed
As Syracuse University gears up to double or triple the number of COVID-19 screening tests in the spring semester, the University’s Public Health Team had to do more than reconfigure the Stadium Testing Center.
To get results from the stadium to your inbox required setting up a testing protocol that maximizes efficiency and accuracy. The process, which is done in Syracuse University labs, makes sure the right result gets to the right person, as quickly as possible. Thanks to the hard work of the laboratory testing and public health teams, your result typically ends up in your inbox within 36 hours.
First, the samples from the Testing Center go into an incubator at 95 degrees Celsius (about 203 degrees Fahrenheit) so that the samples are safe for transport. Then they go to a pooling lab in the Center for Science and Technology, where they are combined in batches of 12 saliva samples.
These pooled samples are carefully labeled and taken to the testing lab in the Life Sciences Complex.
There, the pooled samples are set up for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test detects genetic material that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even if the individual being tested has no symptoms. It is the most accurate and reliable test.
The samples, now in a PCR plate that holds 92 pooled samples from up to 1,104 people and testing controls, are loaded into the machine, which tests the pooled samples for the presence of the virus.
The laboratory team then analyzes the data and enters it into the testing database.
If the analysis indicates the pool is negative for SARS-CoV-2, that data is entered into the testing database and individuals who contributed to the pool receive a notification via email.
If one of the pooled samples is positive for SARS-CoV-2, the team goes back to the original samples. The original 12 sample tubes from each pool are put together in one bag. That means, the lab team can quickly re-test every sample in a positive pool to determine which individual or individuals have a positive result.
Then the team repeats the process to identify the positive sample(s).
That data is then entered into the testing database and triggers an alert to the Public Health Team regarding the person(s) whose sample came back positive. The Public Health Team then contacts the individual(s) by phone to initiate confirmatory diagnostic testing and any necessary isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing protocols.