Researchers from The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, claim they devised a new way of testing for SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic. With a massive increase in testing capacity, could this breakthrough accelerate Ontario’s ability to get back to normalcy? It would appear so, thanks to a study aimed to detect the spread of COVID-19 and determine the most effective testing strategies in long-term care and congregate settings.
By working in collaboration with Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HLMP)—a partnership between St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and Hamilton Health Sciences—this group is responsible for conducting clinical trials targeting COVID-19 in the region. Presently, HRLMP can test up to 800 samples per day. However, with the breakthrough advancements declared, scientists could test up to 6,000 samples per day.
This breakthrough was spurred by Dr. David Bulir and Dr. Marek Smieja, infectious disease physician/researchers from St. Joe’s Disease Diagnostics and Development (D3) Group which identified the need for an alternative supply of testing materials back in January 2020.
The team developed a new transport medium, hence enhancing the test for COVID-19 at St. Joe’s research laboratory. According to a press release from The Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton, one of the key benefits of using these new testing materials with Dr. Bulir’s newly developed COVID-19 test is the ability to pool specimens. For example, with specimen pooling, the researchers can boost testing capacity by fourfold and even possibly more. As most tests produce negative results, only pools that come back with positive results would need further examination.
Improving the Region’s Testing Capacity
As this advancement will allow for the building up of Ontario’s stockpile of testing supplies and its capacity to perform rapid testing, this will lead to a contribution to more expeditiously lift lockdown restrictions for municipalities. Moreover, in collaboration with the Surveillance Pilot Project—launched in collaboration with St. Joseph’s Health System—this project and “Made-in-Ontario solution” will have significant impact on the increased testing that will support communities across Ontario to emerge from COVID.
The development of these innovative testing methods could not have been possible without the support and funding from the Juravinski Research Institute, the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, St. Joseph’s Health System, and the Research Institute of St. Joe’s Hamilton.