Coastal Carolina University researchers are developing their own COVID-19 tests

Grand Strand

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – Coastal Carolina University researchers are trying to improve Horry County’s coronavirus testing capacity by developing a test of their own.

If you’ve seen or taken a COVID-19 test, you may think of a long swab going up both nostrils, but Coastal Carolina is looking at a way that’s a little less painful.

“You don’t have to have a swab shoved up your nose,” said Paul Richardson, a biochemistry professor at CCU. “All you got to do is stick out your tongue, put this little plastic tip on there, then stick it in a little plastic jar and you’re done.”

Professor Richardson and other Coastal researchers modified a standard CDC coronavirus test by taking a sample from someone’s tongue.

“The advantage of this test is it can be done in-house and it can be done very quickly, so you don’t have to be sending it out to Columbia,” professor Richardson said.

The researches have been developing the tests for about six weeks. Professor Richardson says 28 people can get results in an hour and 20 minutes. It can take two or three days to get a result when samples are sent to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) laboratory.

A video by Coastal Carolina University demonstrating its COVID-19 testing program.

The tests can be processed more efficiently because CCU is working with Conway Medical Center to do it at the Singleton Ridge Road campus.

“We’re using similar technology to the nasal pharyngeal swab to actually detect the virus,” said Dr. Paul Richardson, who’s the chief medical officer of Conway Medical Center. “The unique part here is the way of which you obtain the sample.”

Some Conway Medical Center patients receive DHEC and Coastal coronavirus tests. The results are compared as part of the validation process.

Once the testing method is validated, it can receive emergency use authorization from the FDA and be implemented beyond this study.

“We’re looking for this test to be over 95% efficient,” said professor Richardson.

The professor also says he wants the test to help people be safer when returning to work or anywhere else in public.

“We’re hoping that, in the future, as we open things back up, this will greatly expand the testing capabilities of Horry County,” professor Richardson said.

Professor Richardson says there needs to be enough data to prove the tests are effective before they can be widely used and while there’s no timeline yet, he hopes that will happen very soon.

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