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FDA approves rapid coronavirus test that gives results in 45 minutes

Published Mar 23rd, 2020 1:07PM EDT
Coronavirus Update

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  • It goes without saying that coronavirus testing is one of the key weapons for fighting the COVID-19 outbreak, and the FDA just approved a quick test that delivers results in just 45-minutes.
  • Reduced waiting times for a diagnosis combined with increasing the number of available tests in hot zones could curb the number of infections significantly.
  • Cepheid’s fast COVID-19 tests that deliver a diagnosis in 45 minutes will be available to hospitals in the US this week, as well as in other countries.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

Most nations around the world battling the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the new COVID-19 disease have been caught off guard by the pandemic, failing to prepare accordingly for imminent local outbreaks after witnessing what happened in China. Most of them are still behind when it comes to testing, with South Korea’s extensive testing methods standing out from the crowd. While social distancing measures and improved personal hygiene can reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, comprehensive screening is required to understand exactly how bad the situation is, and to catch COVID-19 cases as early as possible. The virus is highly contagious, and because infected individuals can go up to 14 days before developing symptoms, you might not know you’ve been infected until it’s too late.

Governments have been ramping up testing procedures, and this doesn’t include just the purchase or manufacturing of more COVID-19 test kits, but also the development of faster tests that can deliver results in a matter of minutes rather than hours. Those rapid tests can be critical for quickly mapping out the spread of the disease in hot zones, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just taken a massive step by approving new tests that can deliver a COVID-19 diagnosis in only 45 minutes.

The Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test comes from Cepheid, a diagnostics company from California, and it’s significantly faster than a common test made by Roche that diagnoses the virus within three hours, per Science Alert.

An accurate test that delivers results more quickly can be transformative — and it can help alleviate the pressure that the emergence of the 2019-nCoV outbreak has put on healthcare facilities. “By leveraging the design principles of our current Xpert Xpress Flu/RSV cartridge technology, in which multiple regions of the viral genome are targeted to provide rapid detection of current and potential future variants of SARS-CoV-2, we have developed a test that provides reference lab-quality results in multiple settings where actionable treatment information is needed quickly,” Chief Medical and Technology Officer at Cepheid Dr. David Persing said

Now that it’s approved, the new test will be sent to hospitals first beginning next week, and then to other medical facilities as well.

The Cepheid test has another crucial advantage over others, as providers won’t need any training to administer the test. Once taken, the samples will be processed using one of Cepheid’s GeneXpert testing systems, of which there are some 23,000 around the world, including 5,000 in the US.

The fast test could be used in drive-through testing locations, not just at hospitals, and it could help diagnose patients long before they start showing symptoms. The development is certainly welcome, and it could help the US and other countries increase the number of tests in the coming weeks, assuming the production of these tests can be ramped up significantly.

Again, it’s a massive campaign of testing that helped South Korea reduce the number of infections significantly in the past few weeks, a move that’s giving local hospitals more time to treat the COVID-19 patients who have already been admitted.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.