An inside look at how specimens are tested for COVID-19 | KOB 4

An inside look at how specimens are tested for COVID-19

Casey Torres
Updated: March 21, 2020 06:03 PM
Created: March 20, 2020 03:20 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Scientists are working overtime at Tricore Reference Laboratories. It's one of the labs approved to test for COVID-19.

One of them is Dr. Karissa Culbreath, chief medical director of infectious disease diagnostics.

"I have actually always been interested in science," Dr. Culbreath said. "Some of the first things that got me interested in science were viruses and these types of virus pandemic situations."

Dr. Culbreath explained the process of testing samples.
"The first step that happens is that we have to, what we call is extract the genetic material from the virus and get that material ready to be detected," she said.

Scientists wear protective gear but there's no need for a hazmat suit. Dr. Culbreath said the viruses are deactivated and aren't contagious.

Then, the samples are taken for detection.

"The virus, itself, is even invisible to the naked eye, and so we have to use highly specialized instruments to be able to detect the genetic material," Dr. Culbreath said.

It takes about four to five hours to determine whether a person has COVID-19. However, the lab isn't giving out results in that timeframe because of the amount of specimens they are testing.

"We're taking about three days from the time the specimen is collected to be able to give the patient a result," Dr. Culbreath said.

Dr. Culbreath, a mother of two, has been puttign in a lot of hours. But she understands that she is needed right now.

"It's because we're trying to take care of our community," she said. "I'm thinking about my family. I'm thinking about my community and everybody who works here."

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