Foto Bax Lindhardt

DTU gears up to perform 10,000 covid-19 tests a day

Monday 07 Sep 20
by Tom Nervil


Helene Larsen
Head of Development
DTU Health Tech
+45 35 88 68 72
Read more about DTU's covid-testing: COVID-19 tests 14 hours a day, 7 days a week
DTU has entered into an agreement with the Capital Region of Denmark on providing laboratory responses to 10,000 covid-19 samples daily. This amounts to a third of all tests in Denmark.

The Danish strategy for tackling covid-19 includes mass testing. This increases the pressure on the testing centres that carry out swab tests on people, and on the hospital labs that have to analyse and provide responses to the samples. Based on a new agreement with the Capital Region of Denmark, which in this case represents all Danish regions, the DTU Centre for Diagnostics DTU is helping to ensure that Denmark has a robust capacity for laboratory testing.

Both the public and the politicians want more tests and quicker responses to the test samples, so that those who are infected can go into quarantine and those who are not can continue their lives as normal. The new agreement is intended to help make this possible.

As of 1 September, about 30,000 tests are being performed daily in Denmark. With the new agreement in place, this means one in three of all test samples in Denmark will be analysed at DTU.

DTU increases staff and adds another shift

Since the beginning of April, the DTU centre has been testing 14 hours a day seven days a week. This has allowed it to analyse all the samples it has received. Thus the bottleneck in providing the public with rapid test responses has not been due to a lack of capacity at the centre.

Under the new agreement for 10,000 tests a day, Head of R&D Helene Larsen is now putting together another night shift, which will work from 22:00 to 05:30 four nights a week, Monday to Friday.

“This obviously creates a special situation at the DTU Centre for Diagnostics, but we have extensive experience of developing and performing tests for diagnosing diseases. From the beginning, when the coronavirus first began to spread, we were equipped to handle SARS-CoV-2, which results in the disease covid-19. Now we’re just doing it at full capacity,” says Helene Larsen.

Important for the Danish regions

The agreement, and the resulting increased capacity for test responses, are also crucial to the Danish regions when it comes to carrying out mass testing.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve come to an agreement with DTU about analysing test samples. Testing many people every day is an important part of the Danish corona strategy, and without this agreement we wouldn’t be able to perform nearly as many tests as we would like. I would therefore like to thank DTU for helping to solve this important social task,” says Stephanie Lose, chair of the Danish Regions.


How are the test samples analysed at DTU?

The samples are delivered to a refrigerated room 24 hours a day via the hospitals’ logistics setup. In the first laboratories, collectively called station 1, the samples are received by 3-4 employees who ensure that the sample number specified by the hospitals matches the contents of the boxes. The samples are then centrifuged and scanned into the lab’s information system to ensure traceability. Then three large robots transfer the sample material from the swab tubes to a plate format. The samples are then transferred to station 2, where any viral RNA present is cleaned by three more robots.

In station 3, virus RNA is transferred to PCR reagents in a new robot. The test ring is inserted into the PCR machine in station 4a, where the next step—the so-called polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—is performed. Here, SARS-CoV-2-RNA is propagated in any potential positive samples and positive control samples, in quantities that make it possible to measure the virus in the sample. In addition, to check that the sample has been taken correctly, a PCR propagates human DNA from the swab.

Finally, the test runs are quality-controlled by a scientific employee at station 4b, and the test results are analysed and uploaded to the Capital Region of Denmark’s database, from which the many hospitals can retrieve their test responses.

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