Houston student creates innovative mobile medical lab for rapid COVID-19 testing
An 18-year old high school senior from the Houston area mobilized his medical knowledge as one of the youngest EMTs in Texas and co-founded a mobile lab which can provide COVID-19 results in 15 minutes.
Texas Mobile Medical Labs was created to counteract testing delays that bogged down how quickly patients received results. The mobile lab currently operates in a van and a tent outside a community center in the Post Oak area for patients who prefer to come to them. For those that can't, the mobile lab can travel to any patient or business location for employee testing in the Houston area after they set up an appointment.
"This summer I become an EMT, training at the Texas EMS Academy in Corpus Christi," says Taft Foley III, co-founder of Texas Mobile Medical Labs. "When I got back to Houston I was asked to take a COVID-19 test, but I was met with a line that wrapped around the entire building and took two hours just to get inside."
According to Foley, that spurred him into finding a better way to get results to people quickly.
"I did my research and found a better alternative to increase testing and reduce waiting times," says Taft. "The antigen test works in 15 minutes, which makes them amenable to point-of-care use. That's when I really got the idea of going out to our patients for the test so that they don't have to leave home."
The tests are performed with a nasal swab, which then detects a viral protein in an actively infected person, giving accurate and fast results.
Antigens are molecules capable of stimulating an immune response. The SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19 has several known antigens including its nucleocapsid phosphoprotein and spike glycoprotein, which are the visible protrusions on its surface.
Antigen tests reveal if a person is currently infected with a pathogen such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Once the infection is gone, the antigen disappears.
Although antigen tests typically have lower sensitivity than a traditional PCR test, that detects the virus through its genetic material, they provide tests rapidly and are relatively cheaper to produce.
"Getting this test to as many people as possible as fast as possible is essential," says Taft. "People need to know whether or not they need to stay home and if they're at risk of spreading the virus to others."
The results are sent to patients via text message or email, giving individuals peace of mind quickly if they are not infected and allowing those with COVID-19 to quarantine themselves and those they have exposed.
The test cost ranges from $100 to $150 for individuals, according to their website, depending on if testers would like to go to their tent location or take advantage of their mobile lab. While they currently do not accept insurance, most insurance companies will reimburse some or all of the cost of the test.
You can reach the Texas Mobile Medical lab at (936) 333-3333 if you have COVID-19 symptoms and would like to schedule an appointment for testing.