As the state of Oklahoma works to reopen the economy and avoid major outbreaks, testing continues to be one of its most important tools.
One of the state’s most productive labs was testing animals for disease just a couple of months ago. The Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory has been at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater since 1975. Until just recently, its main purpose has been to prevent outbreaks from spreading in animals.
“It’s there to run diagnostic tests on animals who have either become sick or who have died to ensure heard safety and safety of the food chain and the agricultural chain,” said Kenneth Sewell, the Vice President of Research at OSU.
Last year, Sewell says the lab processed about 25,000 animal specimens.
In late March it transformed into a coronavirus testing facility and has run more than 30,000 human tests. Conveniently, a lot of the same technology can be used, like the machines that find genetic markers of the virus.
The latest report from the state health department shows OSU’s lab is now running almost a quarter of the state’s coronavirus tests. It has tested 3 times more specimens than the state health department’s public health lab.
“In order to pull that off, we had to bring in researchers from around campus who had laboratory experience, get them trained, get them screened, get the health check that they needed,” Sewell said.
About 150 people are now involved in this operation and many are working overtime. The University says that most of the tests they get are coming from county health departments and from some hospitals.