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Published on January 06, 2021

Billings Clinic offers new in-house COVID-19 testing platform with results in 24-48 hours

BILLINGS, MT – Billings Clinic is pleased to announce that it is now using the TaqPath in-house COVID-19 testing system, allowing test results to be returned in 24-48 hours. This platform allows most of the organization’s COVID-19 analysis to happen on-site, significantly reducing the need to send tests to the State of Montana or other outside laboratories for results, while greatly improving testing capabilities and result turnaround times. Furthermore, this platform provides results that are much more accurate than antigen testing methods, allowing Billings Clinic a high degree of certainty in diagnosing patients with COVID-19.

This platform is a molecular test that has received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It first extracts ribonucleic acid (RNA), which is found in all living cells and delivers genetic information, from the sample. It then performs what is known as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-specific markers to determine if a person has contracted COVID-19. In this process it searches out three separate genes, which allows the testing system to identify the illness in multiple ways. This means it can also help identify multiple strains of COVID-19. This includes possible cases of the new variant strain first identified in the United Kingdom. While the strain is not directly identified at Billings Clinic, samples featuring specific markers for potential cases are sent to the state to determine if it is the variant. The first cases of this new strain in the United States were recently confirmed in Colorado and southern California.

While no cases of the new variant have been confirmed in Montana, Billings Clinic is working with the State of Montana to monitor the spread using the TaqPath platform. Samples of that variant that meet reporting requirements of being positive for two of the specific genes but negative for the spike protein, which can help identify the strain, are sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for review based on the PCR testing platform.

“Expanded testing is incredibly important for our community in order to identify new cases of COVID-19 as early as possible,” said Christina Kavran, D.O., Billings Clinic pathologist. “We need to test as many people as we can in order to slow the spread of this illness. This state-of-the-art platform helps us do that by allowing us to run more tests with quicker turnaround times for results.”

Billings Clinic has hired a consulting PhD-trained molecular biologist to assist in developing current and future molecular tests for patients, local physicians and reference clients using TaqPath.

Billings Clinic can analyze more than 400 tests every 24 to 48-hour cycle using the TaqPath platform and has approximately 27,000 tests on hand. It can also increase PCR testing based on demand. Billings Clinic will continue to utilize several other rapid COVID-19 testing platforms, including the Abbot ID NOW, based on the specific needs of each individual patient.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Billings Clinic asks that everybody wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose while around others, frequently wash your hands, practice physical distancing, avoid group gatherings and crowded areas, and stay home if you are ill. If you have questions about COVID-19, want to know if you should be tested or are sick enough that you would normally visit the doctor, please call Billings Clinic HealthLine at 406-255-8400 for instructions or additional information. If you are ill and have mild respiratory illness symptoms, stay home and self-isolate as much as possible. More information can also be found at www.billingsclinic.com/covid19.

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