Some hospitals and clinics will receive viral sampling kits this week from an unlikely source—the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station.
The kits—typically used on pigs, cows and chickens—are being assembled and repurposed for use with humans.
“Physicians wanting to test patients for the presence of COVID-19 are oftentimes unable to find the very basic sampling supplies they need to do that,” notes Amy Swinford, DVM, MS, associate director for TVMDL. “The materials we use here are very similar and, in some cases, identical to what physicians use.”
The kits are not to be confused with the actual COVID-19 tests, Swinford adds. Rather, the kits are used to obtain the material needed for the test.
Each sampling kit consists of a swab, a vial with transport media to preserve the sample in the vial, and a bag.
The kit components are approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for use in sampling humans for the COVID-19 virus. The kits had cost about $4 to $5 each when ordered in bulk before the pandemic swept through the existing stock.
The kits, 2,000 total, are being shipped to hospitals in cities with a Texas A&M System campus, such as Galveston, McAllen and the Texas A&M School of Law in Fort Worth. The university presidents will determine where there is the greatest need for the kits in their respective community.
CLICK HERE FOR B-ROLL OF THE COVID-19 SAMPLING KITS BEING ASSEMBLED
“We know 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,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, in a prepared statement.
Swinford says a number of veterinary colleges across the U.S. are putting together sampling kits for use in their respective states.
“I'd encourage those that haven't considered doing that to look for opportunities where they might be able to share what they have in the way of extra personal protective equipment, such as masks,” she says. “We have to maintain some for our use, because we’re still in a testing environment, but where we have extra, we’ve given those up and made them available to our human counterparts. I know a lot of my colleagues have done the same thing.”