MORRISTOWN, NJ — In a breakthrough that will give better insight into how and where COVID-19 variants are spreading within New Jersey, Atlantic Health System is among the first hospitals in the region to be able to rapidly screen for key viral variants.

The organization will begin surveillance testing for COVID-19 variants for population health using internally developed polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based tests. The health system will also partner with Seegene, Inc., using its recently developed research-use variant detection multiplex tests to rapidly screen for multiple variants such as those currently spreading in the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. Atlantic Health plans to continue developing tests to identify additional strains such as the California and New York variants as well.

This test, performed via a PCR assay that searches for the genetic material of viruses such as COVID-19, allows Atlantic Health to take a patient’s sample and not only determine whether he or she is positive for the novel coronavirus, but also whether he or she has one of these variants—all within a matter of hours.

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“Since the start of the pandemic, rapid testing has remained one of the most important and elusive tools we have,” said Brian Gragnolati, president and CEO of Atlantic Health System. “Similar to the challenges we faced with testing for the original strain last spring, the inability to quickly identify variants makes it difficult to track their spread. Using this new genetic test, Atlantic Health is leading the way in protecting our community.”

Testing will be done in-house at Atlantic Consolidated Laboratory, which began performing all COVID-19 testing in-house earlier this year and dramatically reduced the time needed to provide results to patients. Atlantic Health laboratories currently run between 1,500 and 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day.

“We have dramatically enhanced our capabilities with the most advanced and reliable testing for COVID-19, which has helped us streamline and facilitate care,” said Lisa McFarlane, PhD, MLS, director of laboratory services for Atlantic Health System. “Being able to detect variants is the next step in caring for our patients, while keeping our caregivers and facilities safe.”

Atlantic Health System is at the forefront of medicine, setting standards for quality health care in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the New York metropolitan area. For more information about Atlantic Health System, CLICK HERE

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