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SRUC supporting NHS with Covid-19 testing

Published Friday, 26th June 2020 in Veterinary Services news

SRUC Veterinary Services staff are working with colleagues at Moredun to assist with Covid-19 testing
SRUC Veterinary Services staff are working with colleagues at Moredun to assist with Covid-19 testing

SRUC is working with Moredun Research Institute to support the NHS by providing extra capacity for vital testing of samples within their laboratory facilities at Pentlands Science Park in Midlothian.

The collaborative team will be using Moredun’s specialist high-containment facilities, for working with high hazard group pathogens to enable the safe handling of samples for SARS-Cov-2 testing combined with SRUC veterinary labs’ capability to deliver high throughput PCR testing.

The team, who would normally be working on delivering diagnostics to support livestock health and welfare, are re-purposing laboratory space and equipment to help NHS colleagues by providing capacity for around 1000 tests a day.

Professor Julie Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Moredun Group, said: Our charities, owned and governed by farmers, and funded mainly by the Scottish Government, have researched many infectious diseases of livestock over the years. Together with our collaborators at SRUC, we have combined facilities and skills to extend capacity of Covid-19 during the ‘test and protect’ phase of the pandemic. We have developed an excellent working relationship with colleagues in the NHS who have worked very hard, along with our own staff to help make this happen. We are very proud of all the staff involved in stepping up to help with the national effort to tackle Covid-19.

Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive of SRUC, said:  “We are delighted to join forces with Moredun to bring our collective expertise and diagnostics capacity to support NHS Scotland. This is a ‘team Scotland’ approach and demonstrates our willingness to share facilities, innovate and adapt our working practices to deliver a public good in the national interest.”

The work that will be conducted by the new Moredun-SRUC node will be the test for the virus itself, the molecular (swab) test, which indicates who has active virus infection.

The combined Moredun-SRUC Veterinary Services team have been working closely with colleagues at NHS Lothian over the last few weeks to ensure that the testing will be conducted to NHS diagnostic standards, fully integrated into NHS systems with training and support provided by NHS clinical staff.

Dr Ingolfur Johannessen, Director of NHS Lothian Laboratory Medicine and Clinical Lead for the Scottish National Laboratory Medicine Programme, said: “We are delighted to work with the Moredun Research Institute and SRUC in a collaborative partnership approach to Covid-19 virus PCR testing, which builds on a template that NHS Scotland has created for such novel approaches in its efforts to expand national testing capacity and ensure resilience. The partnership with Moredun and SRUC expands that approach even further, supporting both NHS Lothian’s test requirements as well as overall national test capacity.”

The Moredun-SRUC testing node is the first major veterinary centre working to support NHS labs to help with Covid-19 testing in the UK and is an excellent example of a One Health approach in action. The team have also developed working methods to ensure that their vital work to conduct diagnostic work in support of veterinary surveillance will continue.

Sheila Voas, Chief Veterinary Officer Scotland, said: “I am delighted to see this example of One Health in action. This combined effort between the world class team at Moredun and SRUC has shown how vets and medics can work together to support the NHS and combat this pandemic.”

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