UAB Pathology to increase COVID-19 testing by week’s end

UAB researchers are now running tests and will soon have them available on a commercial platform, increasing output.

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

Researchers with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Pathology are collaborating with Children’s of Alabama to increase the testing capability of COVID-19 for hospitals and health care facilities across Alabama.

Testing for COVID-19 has been limited in Alabama as more and more people are exposed to the virus, creating a strain on all health care workers.

Sixto Leal, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, UAB Pathology, is spearheading this effort.

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“This test should be available by the end of this week and will allow us to begin processing 100 tests per day,” Leal said. “We will be testing primarily priority in-patients at UAB Hospital so we can preserve negative pressure rooms. Within three to four weeks, we hope to have 800 tests per day.”

A new update from the CDC for UAB’s testing includes the ability to work directly with the Alabama Department of Public Health instead of having to wait for guidance from the FDA.

“Another thing we’re doing is working with diagnostic test companies on multiple platforms and multiple systems to increase capacity,” Leal said. “One of the issues we’re facing nationwide is that there is such a demand for reagents to do these diagnostic tests, and the reagents are not available. That’s why we’re going the LDT route, which is a laboratory developed test. Developing our own tests enables us to obtain the reagents to be able to perform the tests. So a lot of commercial manufacturers are ramping up their production, which makes tests available, and we’re working to bring up several of these here at UAB.”

All of these updates include providing microbiologically sound advice to keep lab staff safe while handling specimens, and help communicate to lab and medical staff specific details on processing specimens or interpreting diagnostic tests.

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