April 9, 2020

Wayne State University and NICHD helped Detroit launch COVID-19 testing site

The volunteers, wearing personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing, prepare to deliver the testing swabs.
The volunteers, wearing personal protective equipment and practicing social distancing, prepare to deliver the testing swabs.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is crediting the efforts of members of Wayne State University and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)/National Institutes of Health in supporting the opening of the city’s drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the former Michigan State Fairgrounds.

Early in the pandemic, the city did not have diagnostic testing. Duggan found a lab willing to test samples, but had no way to collect them. The mayor called Roberto Romero, M.D., DMedSci — chief of the Perinatology Research Branch (PRB) at Wayne State University, part of the National Institutes of Health — for assistance.

Wayne State faculty and staff volunteered to create test kits from materials donated by the university.

“Swabs used to study the vaginal microbiome could be repurposed to test for the virus responsible for COVID-19,” Romero said. “The Wayne State University faculty and staff assembled the sampling kits to facilitate the collection of specimens.”

The city launched its testing site on March 27 as Detroit was quickly becoming a hotspot for the virus. Those working at WSU assembled and provided 12,000 test kits for the site.

“Dr. Romero is the unsung hero of our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Detroit and our region,” Duggan said. “If it were not for Wayne State University and the NICHD producing and delivering 12,000 testing kits, we would not have had the resources needed to open up the Regional Testing Facility at the state fairgrounds. Thanks to their efforts, we are now testing up to 700 people from across our region each day, with plans to expand to 1,000.”

Romero was quick to insist the praise goes to those who volunteered to assemble the kits in two batches of 6,000 each.

“These young people volunteered to come in at a time when the city of Detroit needed them most,” Romero said. “They are the true heroes.”

Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, Ph.D.

He singled out the leadership of Nardhy Gomez-Lopez, Ph.D., associate professor of WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Chaur-Dong Hsu, M.D., M.P.H., chair of WSU Obstetrics and Gynecology, who donated the materials.

The volunteers include:

  • Valeria Garcia-Flores, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology, WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Kenichiro Motomura, M.D., Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Bogdan Panaitescu, M.D., Ph.D, a resident with the WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Marcia Arenas-Hernandez, Ph.D., junior research associate, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • Jose Galaz, M.D., postdoctoral fellow, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Meyer Gershater, research assistant, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • Dustyn Levenson, research assistant, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Yaozhu Leng, research assistant, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Richard Zou, research assistant, Maternal-Fetal Immunobiology Unit, WSU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

The NICHD Perinatology Research Branch is housed at Wayne State University and the Detroit Medical Center (DMC). Since coming to Wayne State 28 years ago, the branch has assisted more than 25,000 pregnant mothers and their infants. The PRB is also studying the virus responsible for COVID-19 in pregnant women at the DMC.

Contact

Phil Van Hulle
Phone: 586-206-8130
Email: pvanhulle@med.wayne.edu