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New machine helping with same-day COVID-19 test results at Mercy Iowa City

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The Panther Fusion machine at Mercy Iowa City

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Doctors at Mercy Iowa City say a new machine will help them provide hundreds of people with accurate, same-day test results for COVID-19.

The Panther Fusion machine, made by health tech company Hologic, is 98% accurate when it comes to analyzing possible COVID-19 samples. People tested before noon at Mercy will have their results back the same day and people tested in the afternoon will have their results before noon the following day.

"If every hospital could have it, they'd certainly want it," Dr. Stephen Scheckel said, Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Iowa City.

The Panther Fusion analyzes RNA strands of the deadly virus on a molecular level, instead of just looking for molecules on the surface of the virus. The latter is called "antigen testing" and is used in part by Test Iowa, as well as by many others across the country.

The FDA has said "there is a high chance of false negatives" with antigen testing, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"It's the most accurate test that's available," Scheckel said of the Panther Fusion.

Mercy had been doing this molecular test verification in the past but not on this scale. The new machine, costing $142,000, can hold and analyze hundreds of tests at a time.

With this new capability, Scheckel says they plan to make contracts with several area businesses and possibly school districts to test their employees and students at a rapid clip.

"Particularly businesses that require contact with the public," Scheckel said. "We want to make sure their employees are COVID-free."

The machine was paid for with donations from the Mercy Iowa City Foundation and was named "Margaret" for Margaret Reese, the former head of the foundation, who recently retired.

Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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