SHREVEPORT, La (KTAL/KMSS) – LSU Health Shreveport has announced it is setting up a laboratory that will be capable of analyzing COVID-19 tests.

Top scientists at LSUHS have created the Emerging Viral Threat Lab in a remarkable amount of time to take on the global pandemic. The (EVT) Lab can initially test 50 samples per day and expects to tests in the hundreds by end of the week and into next week. The test results are determined with 24 to 48 hours. 

During a virtual press conference Wednesday morning, Chancellor Doctor G. E. Ghali said the facts around Louisiana’s confirmed cases are “really scary” because studies show the state has the fastest growth rate of confirmed cases in the entire world, third in per capita, and the steepness parallels that of Italy and Spain.

“To be clear – this is not a testing site but rather it is the first laboratory in north Louisiana approved with the capability to analyze tests to determine if an individual has COVID-19,” said Dr. Chris Kevil, Vice-Chancellor for Research in a statement announcing the news conference Tuesday.

The notion to create the lab started among LSUHS virologists on March 12. Doctor Ghali met with Governor John Bel Edwards on March 17, and said by March 25 the new lab started testing its first samples. The lab is built to be flexible to fight viral outbreaks. It’s focused on determining if samples are positive or negative for the coronavirus along with its mutations, viral load, and other viral pathogens.

Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs Doctor Chuck Fox said “this was a massive undertaking” and the ability to test makes all the difference in saving lives and keeping hospitals from being overrun. By being able to determine if a patient is positive for the coronavirus means nurses and staff can know which patients to segregate and which to not. It also cuts down on health care professionals from having to wear full personal protective equipment if it is not needed.

The (EVT) Lab will test samples that are received from various places where patients have met and received approved by their primary care physician.

Chief Innovation Officer said LSUHS houses a world class team of virologists who felt if they could do something, they should. The lab will also be able to follow how the virus changes over time. He said it is a way to “punch the virus in the mouth” during the fight against the pandemic.