In what seems like the first good news about coronavirus in a minute, Abbott Laboratories is getting ready to launch a test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is small and portable enough to be used anywhere, Bloomberg reports.
Tests for the virus have been difficult to come by, especially in the U.S. Healthcare professionals around the country are begging people who suspect that they might have contracted COVID-19 to stay home unless they’re showing the most extreme of symptoms because of a shortage of testing kits.
Starting April 1, the medical device manufacturer plans to supply 50,000 of the tests a day. The test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected quickly when the virus levels are high.
According to John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics, a thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes at the most.
“This is really going to provide a tremendous opportunity for frontline caregivers, those having to diagnose a lot of infections, to close the gap with our testing,” Frels told Bloomberg. “A clinic will be able to turn that result around quickly, while the patient is waiting.”
The test, which can be set up almost anywhere, starts with taking a swab from the back of the throat or the nose, then mixing it with a chemical solution that breaks open the virus and releases its RNA. Then, the mixture is placed in Abbott’s system, a small box weighing just under seven pounds, that can identify and amplify select sequences of the coronavirus genome and ignore contamination from other viruses.
The company is working with the Trump administration to ensure the first cartridges used to perform the tests are sent to hospital emergency rooms, urgent-care clinics,, and doctors’ offices.
Public health officials are predicting that the coronavirus outbreak will continue well into the rest of the spring and potentially even spill into the summer. That means that the government has to act quickly and efficiently to contain the respiratory virus, and hopefully this will be the first big step.