KAFB Medical Center ramps up rapid COVID-19 testing

KAFB Medical Center ramps up rapid COVID-19 testing

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - We’ve shown you many of the healthcare heroes battling COVID-19 on the frontlines. On Friday we got a peek behind the curtain at some of the lab technicians helping Keesler Air Force Base Medical Center lead the way in terms of rapid COVID-19 testing.

It's a high-tech, fast results system where the military's next phase of the battle against a global pandemic takes place.

“It’s a war against a virus, and I know that I’m proud to be on the frontlines. The Keesler medical staff is and we’ll be here until the end,” said Col. Greg Papke, KAFB Medical Center administrator.

The testing process begins in the clinical lab where state-of-the-art machines can crank out up to 100 test results in as little as 45 minutes.

“That’s good for some of the mass testings when we test larger units,” Papke added.

The KAFB staff also handles COVID-19 testing for other branches of the military, not only in South Mississippi but also throughout the Southeast.

For that high-volume testing, the center’s Genetics Lab kicks into gear, complete with a cryogenic freezer, which stores positive COVID-19 test samples at -80°C.

The lab techs set it all up, while two machines do the heavy tech lifting and processing.

"These instruments are used to detect certain sequences that are on the genes of the viral RNA," said Mary Leigh Schramko, molecular technical supervisor. "They're basically color coordinated. It's easier for us visually."

Rapid-fire testing, real-time results that save lives and a team locked in on their job behind the scenes in the fight against COVID-19.

“We have some high octane equipment and high octane people, and it’s amazing what they can do,” Papke said.

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