Labcorp, one of the largest commercial laboratory testing networks in the U.S., will begin testing for monkeypox on Wednesday as the recent outbreak continues to spread.
Labcorp will begin conducting tests using orthopoxvirus tests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Orthopoxvirus is the genus of viruses that includes pathogens like smallpox, cowpox and monkeypox.
The CDC’s tests detect all non-smallpox orthopoxviruses, and Labcorp will eventually have the capacity to conduct around 10,000 daily, according to the company.
Labcorp Chief Medical Officer Brian Caveney said in a statement that all tests will initially be performed in the company’s largest facility in North Carolina and that testing will expand to other locations if the need arises. The company will accept samples from anywhere in the country.
This announcement comes as the number of detected monkeypox cases in the U.S. continues to rise, with many cases almost certainly going underreported due to the lack of testing capabilities.
According to the most recent estimate from the CDC, more than 550 cases have been confirmed across 33 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
“The ability of commercial labs to test for monkeypox is a key pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
“This will not only increase testing capacity but will make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-lab relationships,” Walensky said.
Labcorp said in its announcement that people should go to their health care providers to initiate the sample collection and testing process. The available tests involve polyester dry swabs that are brushed against the base of possible monkeypox lesions, which can cover the face and body of an infected individual.
A national vaccination campaign has been launched in response to the monkeypox outbreak, with the smallpox vaccines ACAM2000 and the newer, preferred Jynneos being offered to at-risk populations in certain locations.
Supply has been severely limited, especially as many local and state governments have shown a preference for the Jynneos vaccine. The Jynneos vaccine is believed to cause fewer side effects than ACAM2000, of which the U.S. has millions of doses in its Strategic National Stockpile.
Local governments have called on the federal government to provide more doses than what has initially been given, with many cities running out of available shots in less than a day of launching their vaccination campaigns.
The administration’s current vaccine strategy involves sending vaccine doses to areas “where transmission is highest and with populations most at risk.”
The White House has ordered additional doses of Jynneos, expected to be delivered within the next few weeks. Last week, the administration announced the delivery of additional smallpox vaccine doses, with roughly 30,000 having been shipped or expected to be shipped so far.