Reader Q: Does Louisiana have any of the ’emergency-use’ coronavirus test machines that give results in an hour?

California-based Cepheid's GeneXpert's family of rapid-response testing systems was approved for use in coronavirus testing by an emergency FDA order last week. Image courtesy Cepheid

Answer. Yes, these test machines are in the state.

A spokesman for Cephied, the California company that developed the test, which has a detection time of about 45 minutes, confirmed to me that some of its testing machines are already in the state. Jason Spark of Canale Communications would not give any specifics on numbers of machines, called GeneXperts (view various versions here), and would not name the cities or facilities that have them.

Patients, healthcare workers first in line. “While the test can be used for screening in the community, it’s important to understand that during this pandemic the test will initially be used in hospitals on patients and healthcare workers,” Spark says. “And specifically in those hospitals that currently have a GeneXpert system onsite to run the test.”

Spark says other types of tests are likely to be used for people who are not admitted to hospitals and at centers that do not have a GeneXpert. “Overall as Cepheid’s tests are delivered, this should help make some of the other tests more accessible as well,” he says.

On Saturday, in an emergency authorization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved use of Cephied’s rapid coronavirus diagnostic test amid the nation’s ongoing struggle to meet the demand for testing. The FDA said the company would roll out the availability of its testing by March 30.

Cepheid said at the time that it would begin shipping to hospitals this week.