On Aug. 17, The University of Southern Mississippi announced that they have added another COVID-19 testing platform to its lineup as the fall semester gets underway. The on-campus clinic in Hattiesburg, the Moffitt Health Center, recently obtained a highly sought-after rapid antigen testing device, known as a Sofia2 analyzer.
The rapid COVID-19 antigen test is a nasopharyngeal swab, similar to the PCR swab. The Sofia 2 analyzer is used as a point-of-care diagnostic tool and returns highly specific results in approximately 15 minutes
For diagnostic purposes, the rapid test will only be used for symptomatic patients within the first week of their onset of symptoms.
“It’s so important to have multiple testing platforms so we never lose the capability to test patients,” said Dr. Melissa Roberts, the Moffitt Health Center Director. “You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket, especially if there’s a testing shortage for one of the platforms you’re using.”
In addition to the Sofia 2 analyzer, the clinic has three Becton Dickinson BD Veritor analyzers that will also be used for rapid antigen testing. The university also has access to PCR tests with a 24-hour turn-around at its off-campus lab, The Accelerator. The PCR test is even more sensitive than the rapid antigen test.
“We plan to be strategic in how we utilize the various testing platforms,” said Roberts. “The rapid antigen test will allow for more rapid diagnosis and isolation of positive COVID-19 cases.”
Roberts said because it’s not quite as sensitive as the PCR test, the Moffitt Health Center plans to send a PCR swab on any negative rapid antigen tests from symptomatic patients to make sure a false negative is not missed.
“We have done a lot of planning as a university over the last several months for a safe return to the fall semester and having access to these testing devices plays a large part in that plan to keep students and employees safe and healthy,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Dee Dee Anderson, Ph.D. “Knowing who has tested positive — and knowing that quickly — puts us 10 steps ahead in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 on campus.”
The campus health center will also use the SARS-CoV-2 lgG antibody blood test, which has a turnaround time of one to two days, through LabCorp in order to diagnose past COVID-19 infection. Southern Miss Athletics has their own Sofia 2 analyzer, and will use it for routine surveillance testing of athletes who are not symptomatic.