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Wichita State University lab develops triple-virus test

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 12:03 AM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita State University on Thursday announced that its Molecular Diagnostics Lab (MDL) has developed a test to detect all three viruses — RSV, influenza and COVID-19 (RIC) — from one nasal swab.

In a news release, Wichita State University pointed out that last year, the flu season was largely diminished due to rigorous health and safety measures to protect against COVID-19, including mask mandates and social distancing requirements, remote schooling and work from home.

“I think it’s important that people know that influenza is actually a really serious virus,” MDL Technical Director Sarah Nickel said. “We skipped influenza season last year, so we’re a little unsure what that will look like this year and how bad people will get sick with it.”

RSV, a respiratory virus most people get when they’re children, is another concern with more infections anticipated this winter.

“We’re all trying to get back to life. We’ve all gotten used to saying, ‘Do I have COVID or not?’,” Nickel said. “But if you’re sick, you still shouldn’t be going around other people. It’s nice to get tested and know what you have because it helps your family know what to do as well.”

Dr. Mark Leiker, an MDL physician, said the triple-virus, RIC test is 97 percent accurate and the lab can process as many as 32,000 specimen per week.

Wichita State said RIC tests are available at no cost to the public, and most results are available within 24 hours. Testing is available at the MDL on South Oliver, at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex at 29th and Oliver, and at the Sedgwick County Health Department.

The goal is to meet community demand and help people better receive treatment for illnesses, by being able to more quickly know what they have.

“It’s very valuable to be able to say which one of those you have (COVID-19, influenza or RSV), not only for spreading purpose, keeping other people safe, but sometimes I think just for your own wellbeing, to be able to give a name to something when you’re not feeling well. It reassures you,” Nickel said.

To date, nearly 300,000 COVID-19 tests have come through the doors of the WSU MDL.

“MDL exists to meet the needs of the community,” Nickel said. “So as soon as the Sedgwick County Health Department told us there was a need, we worked on validating a test and getting it ready as soon as possible so that we could meet that need.”

Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne also spoke on the lab’s importance for the community.

“It is quite a benefit to our community to be able to have a lab that is able to give them an additional response outside of COVID,” she said.

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