Texas A&M veterinary lab repurposes animal viral test kits to detect COVID-19 in humans

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KTRK) -- Texas A&M may be known for producing leaders in agriculture, and now with the coronavirus crisis, the College Station campus may be known for a unique response to a growing need for test kits.

Viral sampling kits intended to test animals are being repurposed for human use by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, according to a statement from the Texas A&M University System.

"No one has ever done this before, but tough times call for creative measures," said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.

Two thousand sampling kits that include a swab, a vial, and other material are being assembled from supplies already in stock at the laboratory's four locations around the state, according to laboratory director Dr. Bruce Akey.

"We know that 2,000 may not seem like much when there are 20-plus million Texans at risk that may need testing, but if you need to be tested and you can't right now because they don't have this kit then it's a pretty big deal to you and your family. So we are doing what we can right now," Akey said.

The kits are normally used on animals like cows, pigs, and chickens, but the components have been approved for human use by the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC, according to the statement.

A&M labs in Amarillo, Center and Gonzales began sending the supplies to College Station late last week, Akey said.


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