Coronavirus symptoms: New COVID-19 test kit promises results in just 20 minutes

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The announcement comes amid concerns coronavirus testing in the United States has failed to meet the high demand. The novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has already infected more than 179,000 people globally, including more than 4,100 people in the US.

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A start-up company based out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is developing a paper-based test kit that can produce results in less than half-an-hour.

The test kit is built upon technology developed at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Sciences (IMES).

The Cambridge-based company E25Bio will submit its work to the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for “emergence use authorisation”.

If successful, the COVID-19 test kit will be temporarily approved for use during the pandemic.

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Coronavirus symptoms: New COVID-19 test kit promises results in just 20 minutes

Coronavirus symptoms: Researchers are developing a rapid COVID-19 test kit (Image: GETTY/REUTERS)

Coronavirus symptoms: New COVID-19 test kit promises results in just 20 minutes

Coronavirus symptoms: Signs of COVID-19 to look out for during the pandemic (Image: EXPRESS)

The coronavirus test kit uses lateral flow technology, which has previously been used to diagnose threats such as Zika and Ebola.

The test consists of a strip of paper coated in a specific antibody that binds to a specific viral protein.

A second antibody is attached to nanoparticles of gold and a sample taken from the patient is then added to the solution.

If the coronavirus viral protein is present in the patient’s sample, it will attach to the antibodies on the strip of paper and the nanoparticles.

A coloured dot should then appear on the strip within 20 minutes.

“We don’t have to wait for antibodies to the virus to come up.”

We don’t have to wait for antibodies to the virus to come up

Lee Gehrke, E25Bio

If the FDA approves the test kits for emergency authorisation, E25Bio will run its first batch of human tests.

Another advantage on top of the short diagnosis time is the paper strips can be inexpensively manufactured in large quantities.

Lee Gehrke, who developed the diagnostic tool, said: “Our hope is that, similar to other tests that we’ve developed, this will be usable on the day that symptoms develop.

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Coronavirus symptoms: New COVID-19 test kit promises results in just 20 minutes

Coronavirus symptoms: COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease (Image: REUTERS)

Coronavirus symptoms: New COVID-19 test kit promises results in just 20 minutes

Coronavirus symptoms: The disease is spread on droplets of bodily fluid (Image: EXPRESS)

Dr Gehrke said: “If those are successful, then the next step would be to talk about using it for actual clinical diagnosis.”

Doctors across the US have so far decried the rate at which people have been tested for COVID-19.

Epidemiologist Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) head of emergencies, told NPR: “Hope is not a strategy. We are still very much in the up cycle of this epidemic.”

He also pointed out countries such as China and South Korea where there has been a concentrated effort to test and isolate as many infected people as possible.

Dr Ryan said: “There’s clearly an indication that a systematic government-led approach using all tactics and all elements available seems to be able to turn this disease around.”

Ashish Jha, who runs the Harvard Global Health Institute, has similarly said the US response to coronavirus has been lacking.

He said: “Some countries have been very aggressive and have actually done quite a good job.

“Other countries have been quite lackadaisical and, I think, have suffered immensely from it. And I think there are lessons to be learned for all of us.”

He added: “Our response is much, much worse than almost any other country that’s been affected.”

Doctors in the US are currently screening for COVID-19 by testing blood samples for antibodies against the virus.

The antibodies are, however, unreliable because they are often undetectable until after symptoms manifest.

Another test looks for the virus’ DNA in sputum samples – a mix of alive and cough from the respiratory tract.

These tests can spot the disease earlier but are costly and take many hours to obtain results.


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