Laboratory Services
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. So Hinman and Sgt. Diego Montes, both laboratory specialists at PHCE, sorting COVID-19 samples. (Photo Credit: Maj. Casey Hackett) VIEW ORIGINAL
Pooling samples
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Pfc. Angelica Perez pooling Covid-19 samples at the Public Health Command Europe laboratory. (Photo Credit: Maj. Casey Hackett) VIEW ORIGINAL

LANDSTUHL, Germany - - As much of Europe is in the midst of a second wave of COVID-19, asymptomatic testing of individuals plays a key role in reducing the spread of the virus.

Public Health Command Europe’s Laboratory Sciences division continues to test service members and civilians with their families who are PCSing to Europe, as well as service members on their way to a deployment or training in order to determine the prevalence and infection rates of troops.

Since May 2020, PHCE has processed more than 60,000 COVID samples. The laboratory science division can process upwards of 2,000 samples per day using high throughput polymerase chain reaction methods developed by the PHCE lab, according to Col. Jeremy Bearss, PHCE’s Laboratory Director.

While medical treatment facilities focus on the testing of individuals who show symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing, PHCE’s laboratory focuses its efforts on surveillance testing, which involves the batch testing of groups of individuals who do not show any symptoms. This allows the processing of a large number of samples over a short period of time, which gives commanders a snapshot of their workforce’s health.

“Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean that you can’t harbor or spread the virus,” explained Bearss. “Our lab performs mass testing of asymptomatic people throughout the theater to determine the prevalence of the disease and better inform mitigation strategies. This allows the medical treatment facilities to focus their efforts solely on clinical testing of symptomatic people and their care.”

According to Bearss, receiving the results of the COVID-19 samples is very time sensitive, therefore the Soldiers are working 24/7 to be able to achieve a turnaround time of less than 48 hours for the large volume of samples submitted to PHCE’s lab.

PHCE currently supports the Army, Air Force and Navy in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

PHCE’s laboratory is an ISO 17025 accredited full-service public health laboratory, which provides biological and chemical analytical services, such as testing for bacterial contamination in food and water or heavy metals, like lead, and pesticides in water, air or soil.

For more information, follow “Public Health Command Europe” on Facebook.