In a recent study comparing the effectiveness of labs across the country at detecting SARS-CoV-2, Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA’s) Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory (RRPL) ranked second, sharing the honour with St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Mount Sinai Hospital’s lab, also in Toronto, holds the first spot.
SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) is the name of the pandemic virus that’s causing COVID-19, the coronavirus disease.
Although Amanda Lang, clinical microbiologist for the SHA, is pleased with the results, “generally speaking, all Canadian labs performed similarly and are employing well-performing tests,” she said.
Seventeen facilities in nine provinces participated in order to evaluate every test (also called assays) in use in Canada at the time of the study. The study took place throughout March and April.
Lang said the purpose of the study was to garner a better understanding of all SARS-CoV-2 laboratory tests being used in Canada and see how well they perform against each other.
“Tests developed by different labs have the potential to be quite different in their performance,” said Ryan McDonald,
supervisor of Typing and Surveillance part of the Molecular Diagnostics group with RRPL. “This study highlights the importance in assessing their ability to detect the virus compared to others.”
Lang noted that the reason for the diversity in lab tests is that every provincial lab and every commercial vendor raced to develop testing protocols quickly during the initial onset of the pandemic in order to meet supply and testing demands.
“The fact that they all perform similarly is very reassuring and allows us to have many ‘back-up’ options to ensure we can provide adequate testing. For example, in Saskatchewan, there are three different lab tests being used interchangeably, all of which perform similarly but use different equipment and supplies, in order to meet testing demands and ensure we have surge capacity.”
Lang, McDonald and Harry Deneer, head of the Molecular Microbiology Lab located at Royal University Hospital, are members of the Respiratory Virus group, part of the Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network. In this role, they helped with the study design, co-ordination of testing, and reviewing and editing of the study article, which appears in the July 2020 issue of the
Journal of Clinical Virology. Lang and McDonald played lead roles in customizing RRPL’s SARS-CoV-2 lab test so that it would produce the best results and be suitable for the lab’s equipment, personnel and workflow.
Dr. Paul Babyn, physician executive for SHA’s Provincial Programs, said the work of the provincial lab team deserves recognition.
“I’d like to thank them for their amazing work developing, validating and doing these tests for the people of Saskatchewan. We’re so proud of the work they do every day.”