LANDSTUHL, Germany -- A new addition to the arsenal of testing capabilities will now supplement Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and two other military health care facilities in Europe in the detection of COVID-19.
A fully-automated, sample-to-result test was recently authorized for emergency use in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“LRMC relies primarily on a testing process that takes about 6-8 hours to perform, which is acceptable in most situations,” explained U.S. Army Col. Pete Bowden, deputy commander for patient services at LRMC. “(This rapid test) will decrease testing times for results to just under an hour, enabling providers to request and receive results for emergency situations.”
LRMC officials will continue using all testing capabilities at the hospital to test for COVID-19 in nearby military communities. While the new equipment can process results more quickly, the existing testing protocol can process much larger quantities of samples and is considered the “gold standard” according to the CDC.
The new test not only augments capabilities at LRMC, but provides a solution for Army health clinics in Belgium and Italy. According to Bowden, the platform also tests for other respiratory diseases.
“Several of these testing instruments were sent to strategic locations around the world along with the needed training for testing,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Peterson, chief of Clinical Core Laboratory Services, LRMC. “The first of these sites are starting to receive this testing capability including several MTFs in Europe.”
Currently, the newly-authorized rapid testing capability is exclusively distributed throughout the Department of Defense. LRMC, the SHAPE Army Health Clinic in Belgium and the Vicenza Army Health Clinic in Italy, are the first Army MTFs to field test the new system.
According to the manufacturer, the new COVID-19 respiratory panels being fielded across the Military Health System, will help bridge the capability gap for use against the global pandemic.
While the military health care facilities in Belgium and Italy have each received test systems, LRMC will use multiple systems to continue providing support to U.S. service members throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“The geographical distance between the SHAPE and Vicenza MTFs and LRMC, and the timeline for transporting specimens to LRMC from remote locations, is the reason why they are receiving the first set of test devices,” said Col. Patrick Contino, chief of clinical operations for Regional Health Command Europe. “More testing devices will arrive to areas outside the Kaiserslautern Military Community in the coming weeks. Until then, we will continue to transport specimens and perform COVID testing at LRMC using our current systems.”