A professor in the School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi is using his expertise in infectious diseases and cell and molecular biology to ensure COVID-19 tests conducted at USM’s Moffitt Health Center will produce results within 24 hours.
Dr. Mohamed Elasri, professor and director of USM’s Center for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, turned existing resources at The Accelerator Lab into testing centers for COVID-19 tests when the virus was first reported in Mississippi in March.
At the time, he was helping Hattiesburg Clinic with testing, but as the fall semester neared and the clinic transitioned to a commercial testing service, Elasri focused his testing capacity to solely assist USM’s clinic on the Hattiesburg campus. Now, COVID-19 tests taken at Moffitt Health Center will be sent to Elasri’s lab located at The Accelerator, just four miles from USM’s Hattiesburg campus, and results will be available within 24 hours.
The lab currently has the capacity to return 100 results each day.
“We’ve repurposed our research capabilities and expertise into doing this clinical test, so it’s very familiar to us since we use these techniques in research,” Dr. Elasri explained. “The tests we are conducting are molecular tests, which deals with microbes and isolating molecules. These are all things we do in our research programs at the Center for Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, and we are proud to have the ability to combat the virus’ spread in this way and assist our community during the pandemic.”
As of now, four full-time technicians are producing this turnaround in Elasri’s lab. The test is a standard PCR test, which is the most accurate test and the one recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The staff has already begun testing and will be prepared once students begin classes on Aug. 17, with the capability of quickly increasing testing capacity should the need arise.
“Dr. Elasri’s laboratory, in partnership with the Moffitt Health Center, is integral to the health and safety of USM students,” Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Dee Dee Anderson said. “Streamlining the reporting on the Hattiesburg campus will allow us to enact our isolation plans quickly to help to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”