PCR Testing

In collaboration with the Okinawa Prefecture Government (OPG), a controlled laboratory at OIST has started Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19.

Updated March 9, 2021

PCR testing for care home staff and the elderly

Throughout February and March 2021, OIST is collaborating with Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) and Okinawan municipalities to provide PCR testing for COVID-19 to the local community.

Two PCR testing projects are currently being implemented by the OIST DNA Sequencing Section, supported by the OIST Health Center and Occupational Health and Safety Section, and coordinated by Provost and virologist, Professor Mary Collins.

External samples are collected by a specially contracted company and transported to OIST’s controlled PCR lab for testing.

For one of the projects, the OIST PCR testing lab is being used to test staff working in care homes and adult day care centers in Onna village, Nago city, Kin town and Ogimi village.

“Care homes are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of COVID-19 so thorough testing of staff is crucial to keep the residents safe and reduce further spread of the disease,” said Mr. Jun Kudaka, Deputy Director of OPG Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarter.

OIST hopes to test around 6000 samples collected from staff working in care homes and adult day care centers by the end of March.

In a second project recently launched, OIST is assisting with regular testing of residents registered with adult day care centers in Nago city and Onna village. PCR testing is available to residents aged 65+ or those with underlying conditions, including diabetes, heart failure or respiratory disease, that make them susceptible to severe COVID-19.

In the initial stage of this project, OIST plans to test approximately 1000 samples by the end of March.

From April onwards, OIST hopes to expand the scale of both PCR testing projects to enable more widespread testing.

Professor Mary Collins said: “As we enter a phase of low cases and the start of vaccination it’s important to protect the most vulnerable citizens. Regular testing of care home staff and elderly residents will minimise the chance of transmission.”

Updated December 28, 2020

On May 1, 2020, the DNA Sequencing Section, supported by the OIST Health Center and Occupational Health and Safety Section and in collaboration with the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG), established a controlled laboratory to provide PCR testing to the OIST community and the Okinawan Prefectural Government (OPG). This became only the third PCR testing lab in Okinawa to meet the needs of this prefecture during the initial spread of COVID-19.

Since the launch of this lab, the PCR Team has tested approximately 3,800 external samples. They worked many holidays and weekends, including all of August, so OIST could assist the Hokubu, Miyako and Yaeyama Public Health Centers in Okinawa's northern region and remote islands. All 190 positive results were reported to these health centers, and these inactivated samples have been stored should they be needed for further research.

The team is now wrapping up the first prefectural PCR testing program, and OIST has received letters of thanks for these efforts, one from the governor and another from the prefectural medical administration. Looking ahead, they are planning a new testing project with OPG, which will begin in 2021. They are also voluntarily taking part in a PCR testing accuracy management survey run by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, which will review approximately 600 testing sites around Japan. The results of this survey will be available to the public in January 2021 along with a manual for accuracy control based on these findings.

May 1st, 2020

In collaboration with the Okinawa Prefecture Government (OPG), a controlled laboratory at OIST has started Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing for COVID-19. This will be the third laboratory in Okinawa that is capable of carrying out such tests.

Coordinated by OIST Provost Professor Mary Collins, who is a virologist, this project involves researchers and staff from the DNA Sequencing Section, the Protein Engineering and Evolution Unit, and the Occupational Health & Safety Section.

“The OPG will send clinical samples to us. We'll take them to a controlled lab and extract the virus RNA,” explained Professor Collins. “Once we’ve done that, the samples are safe, and we can run the PCR test. Most of the reagents we use came in the form of kits supplied by manufacturers overseas.”

The researchers are following approved health & safety protocols that have been recommended by the World Health Organization.

On 1st  May, the researchers performed control tests on four samples that had already been confirmed by one of the other labs to be positive or negative. By checking that their tests provided identical results, the lab confirmed that the OIST PCR tests were accurate.

“At the moment, the situation in Okinawa is fragile, with only two other labs on the island that are approved to perform this test,” said Professor Collins. “We're not sure how many samples we're going to receive at our lab but both OIST and the OPG were keen to set it up so that we have a back-up in the event that there is a surge in cases here.”

The PCR lab at OIST where the samples will be analyzed

 

The biological safety cabinets within the PCR lab at OIST.
Biological safety cabinets

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