Researchers develop mobile lab that could bring COVID-19 testing to underserved areas

Local News

URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Researchers at the University of Illinois are one step closer to making saliva tests available to people outside of campus. They’re testing a mobile processing lab.

This means testing could happen just about anywhere, and results could come back faster. It’s called mobileSHIELD. It’s about the size of a tractor-trailer. As soon as swabs are collected, they can be taken to the lab for processing. No need to wait until the end of the day to load up a vehicle and drive them to a lab. That means quicker results and more access to underserved areas. We talked to the director of the project about the work she and her team put into this.

“The goal behind having something that is mobile is to increase testing where it is needed, and it could be needed because it is a hotspot, and there is not enough capacity there. We know, from public health, that surveillance testing is a really crucial part of getting ahead of infectious diseases,” said project director Abigail Wooldridge.

This lab has the capacity to process 10,000 tests a day and get results to people within a day. The big question is: How soon could it be used? It depends on a few things, but the main issue is getting FDA approval for saliva testing. The university is still waiting on that.

On top of FDA approval, the lab will also have to be validated. That means they have to prove their lab gets the same results that a registered lab could get. Their goal is to get validation by the end of the month.

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