Lab develops test that can detect COVID-19, flu strains

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local medical lab is launching a new test that allows them to screen for COVID-19, flu A and flu B.

NxGen MDx, the company behind the test, calls it the COVID plus test.

“We’ve gone from a lab that was operating five days a week, one shift to seven days a week, three shifts with the capacity to do 9,000 tests a day,” said Doug McIntosh with NxGen.

NxGen MDx is rolling out what it's calling a COVID plus test, which allows the lab to screen for COVID-19, Flu A and Flu B. (Oct. 27, 2020)
NxGen MDx is rolling out what it’s calling a COVID plus test, which allows the lab to screen for COVID-19, Flu A and Flu B. (Oct. 27, 2020)

McIntosh says they first started developing the COVID plus test about three months ago when they noticed many patients testing negative despite showing symptoms.

“When people come in and they’re negative, but they’re coughing and sneezing. Everyone around them, including administrators, are nervous. So being able to say no, I’m negative for COVID, but I do have the flu,” said McIntosh.

Health officials are now looking ahead to a potentially dangerous ramp-up of COVID-19 amid flu season. NxGen says it makes tests like this one that much more important.

“This is done the exact same way we would do a COVID test. We use a kind of nasal swab and we just do one collection like we would do for COVID. We can test for all three pathogens,” said McIntosh.

To get the test, patients must be showing symptoms. The test is currently only available at NxGen’s Holland location and some private practices throughout West Michigan.

They’ve tested about 800 to 900 patients at their Holland test site so far. Of those who have used COVID plus test, NxGen says there have been no positive flu cases so far.

They say the more thorough analysis offered by the COVID plus test helps to give the community a better look at the current scope of the pandemic. It also helps health officials determine proper treatments.

“We’re an organization that has always been about being there for the patient. Right now, this is a time to work together,” said McIntosh.

NxGen says they hope to make the COVID plus test available at more sites in the coming weeks. Due to the current spike in coronavirus cases, they plan to ramp up testing efforts in the Grand Haven and Grand Rapids areas.