Texas Tech Laboratory was state's first lab to test for COVID-19 - FOX34 Lubbock

Texas Tech Laboratory was state's first lab to test for COVID-19

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH) is both an academic research lab and a public health diagnostic testing facility. 

In February, TIEHH's Biological Threat Research Laboratory became the first lab in the state to test for COVID-19.

Director of both the TIEHH and Biological Threat Research Laboratory, Steve Presley, is proud of how the staff has been able to help. 

"We're unique in that we're the only academic institution that has an Laboratory Response Network lab," Presley said. "We primarily get samples from critically ill in-hospital patients and those that we know have been exposed."

The lab guarantees a 24-hour turnaround for results, which Presley said gives the healthcare providers an edge. 

"The sooner they know that they're actually being exposed to COVID-19, they can change the treatment regime for the patient," Presley said. "And also make sure they are wearing the right personal protective equipment."

The labs' area of responsibility covers 67 counties in the Texas Panhandle, including Lubbock hospitals and clinics.

"We're considered a high complexity testing laboratory, so we average maybe three or 400 samples a year," Presley said. "But with COVID-19, we became aware that there was going to be a much higher demand for testing."

Due to the demand, the Tech system enhanced the capacity of the Biological Threat Research Laboratory. Presley said it's already tested about 1,700 coronavirus cases.

Presley said of all the infectious diseases it's tested, COVID-19 is the most unique due to its ability to be easily transmitted and its unpredictable pathology. However, he said his staff is not focused on studying the virus in particular just yet. 

"The learning that we're getting out of it is just looking at the epidemiology of it as it moves through," Presley said. "We already have several research projects lined up as soon as we get through this intensive testing period." 

With the increasing number of tests, there is no timeline for when research will begin.

 "I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, I kind of see a little glimmer," Presley said. "There's going to be a lot to learn about this virus."


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