Five-minute Covid-19 antigen test could be ready by mid-2021

Rapid antigen tests are seen as key in rolling out mass-testing and reopening economies while the coronavirus is still circulating

Picture: 123RF/KATERYNA KOM
Picture: 123RF/KATERYNA KOM

London — Scientists from Britain's University of Oxford have developed a rapid Covid-19 test able to identify the coronavirus in less than five minutes, researchers said on Thursday, adding it could be used in mass testing at airports and businesses.

The university said it hoped to start product development of the testing device in early 2021 and have an approved device available six months afterwards.

The device is able to detect the coronavirus and distinguish it from other viruses with high accuracy, the researchers said in a preprint study.

“Our method quickly detects intact virus particles,” said Prof Achilles Kapanidis, at Oxford's department of physics, adding that this meant the test would be “simple, extremely rapid, and cost-effective”.

Rapid antigen tests are seen as key in rolling out mass-testing and reopening economies while the coronavirus is still circulating, and those that are already in use are faster and cheaper but less accurate than existing molecular PCR tests.

Siemens Healthineers on Wednesday announced the launch of a rapid antigen test kit in Europe to detect coronavirus infections, but warned that the industry may struggle to meet a surge in demand.

Health officials have warned that the world will need to live with coronavirus even if a vaccine is developed.

“A significant concern for the upcoming [northern hemisphere] winter months is the unpredictable effects of co-circulation of SARS-CoV-2 with other seasonal respiratory viruses,” said Dr Nicole Robb, of Warwick Medical School.

“We have shown that our assay [test] can reliably distinguish between different viruses in clinical samples, a development that offers a crucial advantage in the next phase of the pandemic.” 

Reuters

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