Soon after the outbreak of COVID-19, Star-shl prepared to create ample capacity to carry out regular COVID-19 PCR diagnostics. On 23 March, testing commenced and we were already able to conduct 1,000 tests a day. Two days later, the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) also reported that we were among the (then still limited group of) approved laboratories.
Soon thereafter, various statements were made in government press conferences mentioning a capacity shortage. This was met with surprise.
“We were able to offer more than twice the number of tests we were asked to do. Everyone at Star-shl was ready to perform 24/7. It is annoying to find out that we cannot do all the work that is available.”
However, Star-shl had already expressed this viewpoint in April.
In July, de Volkskrant newspaper looked back at this discussion from the first wave, again with the cooperation of Star-shl. Although our testing capacity during the first wave of COVID-19 was greater than the (organised) demand, we have been able to carry out more than 100,000 tests (as of 6 November).
In addition to the regular PCR diagnostics, we soon expanded the COVID-19 diagnostics range to include the serological COVID-19 Antibody test, in which the blood reveals whether or not a person was infected with COVID-19.
Star-shl’s medical microbiologists, in cooperation with Erasmus MC, have also investigated the diagnostic value of various serological COVID-19 tests. The results provide information on prior exposure to the virus and possible immunity.
They examined five ELISA assays, two CLIA assays and two POC lateral flow immunoassays for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the serum samples of 61 mildly to severely ill COVID-19 patients and 109 samples of control patients. Differences in severity and duration of the symptoms were explicitly included in the analyses of the performances of the various tests. The analyses have been completed and are currently being incorporated into an article that will soon be submitted for international publication.