A new rapid antigen test kit could help identify people affected by COVID-19 in as little as 15 minutes. The test has been created by E25Bio, a Massachusetts, US-based startup that has previously made diagnostic tests for dengue and Zika. The company was spun out of Lee Gerke’s lab, a part of MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, backed by an MIT-affiliated organisation called The Engine. The test can detect if a person has been affected by COVID-19, caused by coronavirus, in a very short amount of time compared to other methods, and could play an important part in helping us return to normal from the current pandemic situation.
Last month, E25Bio raised $2 million (roughly Rs 15.3 crores) from Khosla Ventures in order to create a rapid COVID-19 diagnosis kit. The two-year-old firm quickly started testing on human samples, and in just about a month, has completed work on its kit, according to a report published by MIT.
The diagnostic test resembles an over-the-counter pregnancy test, although unfortunately, you still require a nasopharyngeal swab to carry out the test. “Our team is also working to determine if alternate samples, like saliva, can be considered, which would help reduce patient discomfort,” said Bosch.
What’s more, the test is also going to be substantially cheaper than most other alternatives. “Given the exponential rate of spread of the virus, there is a critical need to deploy fast, reliable, affordable, and easy-to-use point-of-care tests in order to flatten the curve by quickly detecting and isolating patients who need immediate care,” the team noted.
Fast and cheap tests are going to be very important in the fight against the spread of coronavirus. Being able to detect COVID-19 in a timely manner will rely on extensive testing, and rapid testing will be important in opening up businesses such as air travel. Right now, airline passengers travelling by the Dubai-based Emirates reportedly have to carry out blood tests for COVID-19 before flying, and this could well be the future of air travel until a vaccine or cure is developed.
According to a statement from the airline, the COVID-19 blood tests were done on passengers before departure. They were conducted at the check-in area and results were available within 10 minutes.
German corporation Bosch has also developed a rapid testing kit for COVID-19, which it claims can detect a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection in patients in under two and a half hours. With the standard tests currently in use, patients must usually wait for one to two days for a result.
At present, three lakh more Rapid Antibody Test kits being used for quick detection of the COVID-19 have been dispatched to India from Chinese city of Guangzhou, the Indian envoy said on Saturday, as per reports. This is in addition to 6.50 lakh Antibody Tests and RNA Extraction Kits sent earlier.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated. An earlier version of the article misstated the details of E25Bio’s affiliation with MIT, and hospital partners.