Championing public health both off and on campus, the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine serves the people of Oregon by providing human COVID-19 testing both in partnership with WVT Laboratory and for the Oregon State University TRACE-COVID-19 public health surveillance project

In total, this partnership has performed more than 300,000 tests.

Aren't veterinary labs just for animals?

The Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and other veterinary labs across the country are actually one of the first lines of defense in human public health as part of One Health efforts that recognize the connection between the health of people, animals and the environment. Many pathogens that affect animals also affect humans. Rabies, swine flu (H1N1 influenza) and now COVID-19 are well-known diseases that follow this pattern. The OVDL and other veterinary diagnostic laboratories are continuously testing samples for pathogens across the spectrum and can alert the broader health community to threats. They also have the capacity to test at scale as many pathogens can spread rapidly amongst livestock operations with thousands of animals. In addition to this scientific and logistical expertise, the OVDL is uniquely positioned for human COVID-19 testing because it holds the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification, which allows it to directly accept human samples for diagnostic testing. 

How do you test?

The Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory runs a type of COVID-19 test called the RT-PCR, or Real-time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction. This molecular test detects the viral genetic material and is used to identify an active coronavirus infection, even at very low levels often observed in pre-symptomatic case. This is especially important for community prevalence testing as it can let people know they have the virus early on, so they can self-isolate and avoid exposing others.   

In partnership with WVT Laboratory, the OVDL receives samples from across Oregon. These samples are collected via nasal or throat swab and sent to the OVDL for testing. Lab technicians use special chemicals and high-tech machines to test for the virus. Results are reported within approximately 48 hours.  

How did this get started?

In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, local physicians, physician groups, health officials and the Oregon State University administration turned to the Oregon Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory to use its high-capacity equipment, expertise and laboratory resources to test for COVID-19. Scientists at the OVDL had been chomping at the bit to get involved. However, though the OVDL is accredited and a member of the USDA National Animal Health Laboratory Network, it needed the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments certification for handling human samples.

The OVDL learned of WVT Laboratory's interest in testing for COVID-19. Located in Albany, Oregon, WVT is CLIA certified, but lacked the equipment and experience for this type of testing. The OVDL and WVT arranged a partnership — the OVDL would provide testing equipment, experience and laboratory resources and WVT would provide proper approvals and certifications, data handling and reporting and also expertise and laboratory space.

As the pandemic continued, the OVDL also applied for and received its own CLIA certification, allowing the testing process to be further streamlined.   

Meet the team

  • Justin Sanders, principal investigator and section head of the OVDL's Molecular Diagnostics Lab 
  • Donna Mulrooney, Molecular Diagnostics Lab supervisor  
  • Andree Hunkapiller, microbiologist 
  • Kim White, microbiologist
  • Ali Al-Fotis, faculty research assistant
  • Wendy Black, faculty research assistant 

Congratulations to all for their Beaver Champion Award as part of the TRACE-COVID-19 team. 

In the news

Media contact: Jens Odegaard, director of marketing and communications, or 541-737-3844.