Animal health company’s efforts expand center’s testing capabilities
MAWD Pathology Group is using Ceva’s DNA sequencing equipment normally used for poultry and swine to receive same-day results for people to find out if they are infected with COVID-19.
Feed Strategy recently spoke with John El-Attrache, global director of scientific and innovation direction at Ceva, about this project.
Feed Strategy: Tell me what Ceva is doing to improve COVID-19 testing.
John El-Attrache: Two of Ceva Animal Health’s state-of-the-art, high-throughput, molecular instruments are now evaluating tests for COVID-19 in the Kansas City area. Because of rising cases in the region, MAWD Pathology needed to expand testing capabilities immediately. However, the lead time to purchase new diagnostic equipment is long. Looking for a creative solution, MAWD Pathology approached Ceva regarding the potential to borrow this equipment for use in its laboratory. The instruments Ceva is lending are considered the gold standard for this type of diagnostic process. They are utilized in both human and animal health.
FS: How does the testing equipment work?
JE: MAWD has validated the equipment using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) primers and probes in the real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay. These instruments provide the most accurate testing available for the detection of COVID-19.
The instruments are used for two specific steps in the diagnostic process:
- Kingfisher Flex Nucleic Acid Extraction: This tool extracts nucleic acid from samples for real-time (qPCR) analysis.
- ABI 7500 FAST Real Time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) System: Nucleic acid extracted from samples processed on the Kingfisher instrument are assessed by this instrument.
Techniques utilized in human and animal diagnostics are very similar, meaning Ceva’s equipment could go to work testing COVID-19 samples in a matter of days.
FS: What is the equipment normally used for?
JE: Ceva’s Scientific Services and Investigative Unit (SSIU) uses the equipment to confirm vaccine application as well as identify diseases in poultry and swine. Identifying diseases is one of the first steps in the development of a vaccine to protect our animals from a virus or bacteria. The use of these instruments for COVID-19 pandemic testing in humans truly substantiates Ceva’s “One Health” approach. Ceva has been and continues to utilize and invest in technology that is used across multiple disciplines. Often, Ceva is leading the investigation with these technologies. Ceva has similar equipment which is still being used to support customers’ diagnostic needs.
FS: How much does this equipment loan increase COVID-19 testing capacity?
JE: Using the two machines, MAWD Pathology will be able to complete the entire process for identification of 96 tests for COVID-19 in approximately 3 to 4 hours. MAWD will be able to complete nearly 1,000 additional results in the Kansas City region each week.
FS: Are there any other ways Ceva is helping in COVID-19 relief efforts?
JE: Ceva employees are supporting them by fostering dogs, cats and even litters of newborn kittens as part of the #StayHomeAndFoster initiative. Ceva employees have also established a fund to help co-workers in the U.S. and around the world who experience financial hardships brought on by COVID-19.