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Microbiology Team – The Heroes behind the scenes, the Science behind the Medicine

2nd June 2020

On 10 January 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence was made publicly available. Just over 2 months later, before the end of March 2020, the Trust Microbiology laboratory was up and running with SARS-CoV-2 testing locally. This is a huge achievement and a credit to the dedication and collaboration of the Microbiology team.

The technology and expertise required to test for a novel virus is not simple, and far from a “plug and play” machine, but despite the challenges including; staff shortages, finite lab space, equipment and reagent shortages and time consuming validations, the whole team were undeterred and determined to work tirelessly night and day to set up this vital new service.

In May 2020 the SHSCT Microbiology Laboratory started to provide a limited number of bespoke “Rapid COVID-19 tests”, with a turnaround time of 1 hour, with approximately 15 tests available per day that can be used as an aid in urgent time critical decision making. Not only is testing important for an individual but it is the only way we will be able to return to some form of normality in society through the test, track and trace operation.

Currently the tests on offer are used to determine if someone currently has COVID-19. Another type of testing are the Antibody tests and these are designed to detect if people have had the virus and are now immune.

Public Health England have just announced that an antibody test has passed their validation and so work now continues to have these tests available locally while working in partnership with our colleagues in the Regional Virus Lab Belfast, Public Health Agency, Academia and Industry.Microbiology Team