RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Burlington-based life science conglomerate LabCorp is the latest company to provide a test for COVID-19.

This coronavirus has gained a foothold in more than 84 countries so far as it continues its unrelenting march across the globe.

LabCorp made its 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) NNA test available on March 5. Physicians and other authorized healthcare providers anywhere in the United States can order it. The company said the test is validated for use with respiratory samples to detect the presence of the novel SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

“We have been intensely focused on making testing for COVID-19 available as soon as possible, working with the government and others to address this public health crisis,” said LabCorp President and CEO Adam H. Schechter. “By expanding access to testing in the U.S., and preparing to support the development of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 through our Covance Drug Development business, we are delivering on LabCorp’s mission to improve health and improve lives.”

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The company is providing the test – a qualitative assay that uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology – under guidelines established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. LabCorp noted that it played a central role in commercializing PCR, which allows scientists to take a small sample of DNA and amplify it in a large-enough amount to study, when the method was first introduced three decades ago.

Clinics collect the tests, LabCorp does the rest

The company said it won’t collect specimens for its test. That will be up to healthcare professionals working with patients who may be infected with coronavirus. But LabCorp will process the samples and make results available in three to four days.

“As COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., having high-quality, reliable, scalable laboratory tests available is a critically important part of the response,” said Marcia Eisenberg, Ph.D., LabCorp’s chief scientific officer. “We will continue to stay closely involved in the ongoing response, and we are prepared to expand testing capacity to help meet demand.”

Earlier in the week, LabCorp and other members of the American Clinical Laboratory Association met with Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force. Clinical labs are trying to address the growing demand for national testing through a new consortium with the Trump administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. State and local public health labs, hospitals and academic medical centers are also involved.

At least 205 patients have been treated for COVID-19 in 18 states so far, according to Johns Hopkins University. That number is growing daily. The CDC said 12 patients in the United States have died of the virus.

Close to 100,000 people have contracted the coronavirus globally, and more than 3,340 have died.

COVID-19 first appeared in Wuhan, China late last year. Since then, Mainland China has reported almost 80,500 cases of the illness and more than 3,000 deaths.

Scientists around the world have been working hard to track everything they can about the evolution of this virus. They’re tapping into everything they’ve learned, over decades, about coronaviruses. North Carolina is among the global leaders in this pursuit.

And even though viruses can be evil and elusive, they all have “fingerprints” and vulnerabilities.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center