Scientists develop rapid test kit for coronavirus


What you need to know:

  • The point-of-care Covid-19 will be as simple as a pregnancy test.
  • Most coronavirus tests take longer than 24 hours to process.

Without sophisticated equipment or highly trained individuals, you could soon know your Covid-19 status in less than an hour.

Researchers are working on the next generation of fast coronavirus tests, which could be done in a doctor’s office, at the workplace or even at home.

This would be a relief for millions who find swabbing of the nose uncomfortable and having to wait for the results for days or weeks.

The point-of-care Covid-19 will be as simple as a pregnancy test and could yield a clean-cut positive or negative result in the comfort of one’s home, potentially leading to on-spot testing, scientists say.

Though it is in use in other countries, it might take a while before it is made available in Kenya.

Spit test

Most coronavirus tests take longer than 24 hours to process.

Some 6,000 samples are being tested in that period in Kenya, against a target of 10,000.

“Once scaled up and distributed to other countries, it is going to reduce backlog and encourage faster tests, especially in an emergency room,” Dr Amesh Adalja of the Johns Hopkins University Centre for Health Security, told reporters yesterday.

“That is going to help people get back to some semblance of normality.”

The test will be useful to hospitals, schools and workplaces.

Those at home can use it to monitor their children’s health.

The method being used in Kenya is the inserting of the swab in the nose until it hits the nasopharynx – part of the airway where the nasal passage meets the throat.

The nasopharynx is a common target of coronavirus.

PCR technique

The extract is then processed through a technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in which a machine cycles through several temperature changes to amplify genetic material.

This is usually delayed by the short supply of testing materials, including swabs and reagents, leading to delays.

“To combat this virus, we need to test widely and frequently and get the results back quickly. This will cut the transmission,” Dr Zev Williams of Columbia University, who is developing a coronavirus spit test, said.

The test is simple and easy to conduct.

Spit is added to a pre-mixed slew of chemicals, which then gets incubated at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour.

If the tube turns yellow, the test is positive, scientists said.

If it turns red, the person is negative.

The test can detect even tiny amounts of coronavirus, making it more sensitive than the other similar tests.

The findings are yet to be published in a scientific journal. Scientists are seeking authority from the Food and Drug Administration to have them published.

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