Fudan University Scientists Develop a Highly Reliable COVID-19 Test That Only Takes 4 Minutes

Since the start of the pandemic, none of the currently available testing options – PCR, antigenic, saliva, or self-tests – have combined two essential features for the massive containment of the Covid-19 virus: speed and reliability of results. Chinese researchers, however, claim to have developed a new, highly sensitive test that gives a result in less than four minutes.

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COVID-19 Testing

COVID-19 Testing

The need for speed and accuracy

Chinese researchers have developed a new testing method for coronaviruses that they claim is as accurate as a lab PCR test the current golden standard and gives a result in minutes. Current PCR tests for Covid-19 usually take several hours for the results to become available. However, scientists from China’s Fudan University in Shanghai seem to have found a more efficient alternative.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, the Fudan University researchers claim to have developed a sensor that uses microelectronics to analyze DNA samples. The sensor, which is connected to a portable machine, can provide a result within less than four minutes, according to the designers. This newly developed system has a “high sensitivity” and can be easily taken anywhere. To test the device for accuracy, samples were taken from 33 people infected with the coronavirus.

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Has the brake on testing finally been lifted?

Regular lab PCR tests were also performed in parallel to compare the two methods. According to the article, all results obtained using the two different methods were identical. A total of 54 samples were tested with the new device, including people with fever but no Covid-19, flu patients, and healthy volunteers.

The Fudan University researchers added that once their device is fully developed, it can be used in a variety of situations, including at airports, hospitals, and even at home.

In addition to being time-consuming, PCR testing requires an important infrastructure which many developing countries have limited supplies of. This is a barrier to testing. Rapid self-tests also exist but are considered less reliable. If However, the 4 min PCR test becomes available more people could be easily tested even in underdeveloped countries which would be a great addition to the arsenal against SARS-CoV-2.

China is one of the world’s largest producers of PCR tests. It exported PCR tests worth a total of $1.6 billion in December, a 144 percent increase in one month, according to Chinese customs.

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References

Rapid and ultrasensitive electromechanical detection of ions, biomolecules, and SARS-CoV-2 RNA in unamplified samples

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