In the time it takes to watch an episode of your favorite TV show, researchers can now complete a full test for COVID-19.
Last week, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced that its biomedical institute located in Suzhou had formulated a new COVID-19 testing kit that can produce results in just 45 minutes. The current average wait time for test results is around two to three hours, as reported by China Daily.
Lead researcher Wang Daming started on this project back in January, and began to test the kits’ efficacy the following month in Hubei. More than 600 patients have already been tested with the kit, with reports of 99% efficacy.
The kit requires a 20-microliter nasal swab, and can be stored and transported at room temperature, which allows for easy on-site testing. Wang’s team developed a new technique in which the pathogen’s exterior is dissolved, revealing the direct genetic material of the virus in a process called Hybrid Capture Immunofluorescence Analysis (HC-IFA).
The new procedure minimizes human error, as the traditional method of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is not utilized. In addition, reagents do not need to be stored at a specific temperature, making the kit easier to ship worldwide. The specialized equipment required for HC-IFA can analyze 60 samples in an hour.
While the new technique looks promising, an immunology professor at Peking University questioned the cost-effectiveness of testing at mass scale. The cost of testing was not disclosed, and has been approved by the National Medical Products Administration in late March.
Around the same time, the US Food and Drug Administration also approved a rapid 45-minute testing kit for COVID-19, manufactured by California-based company Cepheid.
[Cover image via China Daily]