Military clinics in Europe now have rapid diagnostic test for coronavirus
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KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — At least seven U.S. military medical clinics in Europe now have an in-house diagnostic tool that processes coronavirus tests in as little as 45 minutes, officials said this week.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the SHAPE Army Health Clinic in Belgium and the Vicenza Army Health Clinic in Italy are the first Army hospitals in Europe to begin using the tool, which was authorized last month by the Food and Drug Administration for use during the global coronavirus emergency.
The Navy hospitals in Rota, Spain and Naples, Italy, and the Air Force clinics at Lakenheath in England and Aviano in Italy, are also receiving or already using the new diagnostic tool, developed by Utah-based BioFire Defense.
LRMC has processed 50 tests using the new system; SHAPE has processed nine, and Vicenza has processed four, said Col. Pete Bowden, LRMC deputy commander for patient services.
“The new system gives our other Army Health Clinics more options,” Bowden said. “[It] can process a testing sample in about an hour, so it can be used to test patients with worsening symptoms to help the clinician rule out co-infection with influenza, which would affect how the patient is treated.”
Bowden said LRMC will continue to process tests conventionally, in batches, when large numbers of people must be tested.
Since testing began, military clinics in Europe have sent tests to host-nation labs, to LRMC or to the U.S. for processing.
“The in-house testing capability cut what was a 3- to 7-day result process to a less than 24-hour result,” Lt. Col. Shawn McFarland, 48th Surgical Operations Squadron commander at RAF Lakenheath, said last week. Lakenheath began using the new system March 30.
BioFire worked with the Defense Department to develop the diagnostic test, which detects a substance found in the DNA of the coronavirus. The system can only be used in authorized laboratories as long as the FDA emergency authorization for coronavirus diagnostic tools is in place, a March 23 letter to BioFire from the FDA says.
Stars and Stripes reporter Brian Ferguson contributed to this story.