Rapid COVID-19 testing on the way

New COVID-19 testing kits that will deliver results in three to 15 minutes will be available in Australia by early April.

The rapid diagnostic tests (RDT), which can be done with a small finger prick, require no laboratory equipment and do not require the use of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) equipment, one of the limiting factors in widescale testing.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Australia has conducted just over 190,000 tests. The pathology system is limited by not only the availability of PCR equipment, but also a lack of reagents.

Rapid tests are important to remove this bottleneck, according to Cellmid, the company importing the new tests.

“Social distancing is absolutely critical, as is learning from countries that managed the coronavirus infections well, such as Singapore and South Korea,” Cellmid chief executive Maria Halasz said. “These countries conducted widespread COVID-19 testing, isolated positives and provided early treatment. They not only controlled the spread of infection, they saved lives and medical resources.

“The benefit to the Australian health system could be enormous.”

RDT tests have a critical role to play in flattening the infection curve. Economically they stack up well against other COVID-19 tests, which take much longer and require specialist laboratory equipment and medical skills.

The same rapid diagnostic test is already used in several countries including the UK, Belgium, Spain and Germany.

The COVID-19 rapid test is a small disposable kit that uses a lateral flow colloidal gold-based detection method against viral specific IgG/IgM, delivering results in as little as three minutes without requiring any laboratory equipment. 

Most other available COVID-19 tests make use of PCR technology to detect viral RNA, which requires skilled technicians, takes several hours to produce a result and is limited in throughput by the availability of specific laboratory equipment. 

The new test’s easy usability makes it an attractive option for regional testing or for mobile/rapid screening centres.

It consists of a small device that requires only 10 microlitres of patient serum or plasma, or 20 microlitres of whole blood, to be loaded into a receptacle, alongside an included buffer, which then migrate along the device to an area of immobilised viral S protein fragments.

If virus specific IgG or IgM is present, conjugates are formed, which show up as a distinctive red band on the device. 

Results are typically seen within three to 15 minutes, depending on the quantity of IgG/IgM in the blood.

Cross comparison of PCR-based testing with the device showed a 93.41 per cent coincidence, proving that the device is positioned as an excellent rapid screening tool.

For the latest advice, information and resources, go to www.health.gov.au, or call the 24-hour National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you require translating or interpreting services, call 131 450. Details of your state or territory public health agency are available at www.health.gov.au/state-territory-contacts.

Have you had to have a COVID-19 test? Do you know someone that has?

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Written by Ben


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