Purdue Veterinary Lab Will Test Human Samples For COVID-19

Apr 17, 2020


Angie Chan is the supervisor of the Molecular Diagnostic Section of the Animal Diagnostic and Disease Laboratory, which performs the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests on samples received in the lab.
Credit (John Underwood/Purdue University photo)

Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine will begin using a lab that tests for infectious diseases in animals to conduct COVID-19 testing for humans.

Indiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory director Dr. Kenitra Hendrix says the lab ran 15,000 tests on animal samples through an automated testing system in 2019. They plan to process 400 human COVID-19 tests a day.

“We have a long history of providing high volume testing for large populations,” Hendrix says. “And so it was fairly straightforward to translate our expertise over to performing this test on human samples.”

ADDL had to be certified to process human tests. Hendrix says most of the samples they currently run are of the porcine and avian variety -- or, pigs and birds -- and they’ll continue to conduct that testing for small and large animal veterinarians and animal producers. In both people and animals, the testing method, Polymerase Chain Reaction --or PCR-- detects viruses, and results come back on the same day. 

“That is what we are used to,” Hendrix says. “And it is our intention that we would have that same timeline for these human samples.”

Hendrix says hospitals around the state will be able to submit test samples to the lab. Purdue joins universities such as Oklahoma State University and Iowa State University, which are also employing animal testing labs for COVID-19 samples. ADDL is partnering on the project with the Indiana State Department of Health, the Purdue Research Foundation, and Parkview Hospital in Ft. Wayne.