San Francisco-based company launches testing kit to track COVID-19 on surfaces

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A Bay Area company is launching a new testing kit that can track whether COVID-19 is present on surfaces.

San Francisco-based biotechnology company Phylagen started producing surface testing kits to help people identify if the virus is present in their home or business.

"It is not a human diagnostic test," said Dr. Jessica Green, the company's CEO. "It just indicates whether or not you have people that are carrying the virus."

The kits include between 10 to 25 swabs that can be brushed on any surface and sent back to the lab to be processed.

Phylagen guarantees a 48-hour test turnaround time.

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"We process every sample and assess whether the virus that causes COVID-19 is present in the sample," Green said. "Then you can have a comprehensive view of where in your building the virus was present."
It's estimated 80 percent of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic.

"This will help people or businesses identify where the virus is present in their home or office even if staff isn't showing any symptoms," said Green. "Temperature checks aren't enough to detect the virus."

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According to Phylagen data, 20 to 50 percent of samples taken in various Bay Area retail shops and grocery stores have tested positive for the virus.

"We all spend more than 90 percent of our life indoors," said Dr. Green. "So we all need to understand if we, without knowing it, are transmitting the virus between one another."

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Dr. Dean Winslow, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, is skeptical about the testing strategy.

"The potential downside is it could give companies a false sense of security," said Winslow. "There's still going to be people coming in and out of the building that are shedding virus whether they're symptomatic or not."

Winslow added the science behind environmental surface testing for COVID-19 isn't validated yet.

"We know that directly testing human beings has a false negative rate," he said. "So the sensitivity of testing environmental surfaces has to be much lower."

While the false negative rate could be lower, it's important to know surface testing is still valuable. The bottom line is to proceed carefully with a negative test.

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"It doesn't mean that five minutes later someone who is infected and shedding the virus could come in and infect," said Winslow.

Here is more information on how to order surface testing for your home or business.

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