Important New Developments and Questions around Serological Testing

April 08, 2020

April 8 Update: From the Chair

Dear Members of the Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Community,

I continue to be impressed by your generosity and your willingness to help in any way you can. The blood drives at PCAM, organized by our own Dr. Don Siegel, director of the Division of Transfusion Medicine and Therapeutic Pathology, were booked out almost immediately. More blood drives are planned.

Qun-bin "QB" Xiong, Laboratory Medical Specialist in our Flow Cytometry Lab, experienced the COVID-19 outbreak in China through the eyes of family members living there. He was quoted in a Penn Medicine News blog post about the most recent PCAM blood drive: "The coronavirus pandemic in China, and what my family there went through, is still very fresh in my memory. I know what America is up against," he said. "I just feel that I have to do something, and giving blood is one big way that I can help." You can help, too:

Appointments for upcoming blood drives at Pennsylvania Hospital are preferred and can be made at this link.

Some other important new developments that I hope you share widely:

SEPTA has announced that service will be restricted to essential personnel – including hospital staff – and those traveling for an essential activity (for example, food shopping, medical appointment) via a new, reduced service schedule. Thirty percent of stations on the Broad Street and Market-Frankford lines will be closed for cleaning, and certain regional rail routes will be suspended. Specific details are available on the SEPTA website here.

A COVID-19 DNA vaccine trial undergoing a Phase 1 human trial has begun here at Penn under the leadership of Dr. Pablo Tebas, a professor of Infectious Diseases. Researchers are assessing the vaccine for an immune response as well as any adverse reactions, and one of our former colleagues, Dr. David Weiner, is part of this innovative DNA vaccine trial.

I was touched by the expressions of gratitude from the students of the Perelman School of Medicine, who conveyed their appreciation and thanks to the doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic in a video message here.

And another useful collection of frequently asked questions around COVID-19 was organized and assembled online by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).

I have fielded a lot of questions around serological testing -- understandably so, but there is also a lot of misunderstanding floating around this topic. Our Director of Laboratory Medicine, Dr. Irving Nachamkin, jokingly calls this "SARS Serological Testing Delusion Syndrome." To clarify some of the most frequently asked questions, he has written an important Pepper Talk blog post on our Department website discussing the four most important points to keep in mind for serologic testing during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. 

Please continue to take care of yourselves because we are here for each other.

David Roth
Chair, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine