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UK-Senegal partners plan to validate ten-minute COVID-19 diagnostic

Rapid test kit will aim to curb virus' spread across Africa

Clinical testing

A prototype coronavirus test, which promises results in a rapid ten-minute time frame, is being fast-tracked into development by Senegal-based DiaTropix and UK-based Mologic.

The prototype test utilises similar technology to a home pregnancy test, and is set to begin a validation test this week.

If the test passes through the validation process without any hiccups, it could become available for use by June – offering a rapid diagnostic that has the potential to allow for mass testing.

While the test could be made widely available around the world, its development is focused particularly at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus disease – COVID-19 – in Africa.

So far, there have been over 2,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, although World Health Organization (WHO) officials have said that this is figure is unlikely to reflect the true number of cases.

Experts have raised concerns that the pandemic will pose a significant challenge for the continent’s health services, with health officials across Africa warning that hospitals can only cope with a small proportion of cases.

According to Mologic’s medical director Joe Fitchett, the diagnostic test “will be made available at cost of goods to low-income settings” and that the development of the test “is not a commercial opportunity”.

The rapid test uses a saliva-based virus antigen test and a blood-based antibody test, with an easy to understand line appearing if a patient does test positive for the coronavirus.

Fitchett has added that while the increased spread, low cost and ease of use means there could be a drop in the test's performance, he maintained that the prototype testing would allow researchers to determine if this drop is meaningful.

“You can test for pregnancy in the lab using blood samples but the drop in performance by using a urine dip home pregnancy test is considered a trade-off worth having for all the other benefits,” he added.

Another coronavirus test, developed by California, US-based Cepheid, was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week.

It has the potential to diagnose patients within 45 minutes, also offering a quick diagnostic tool at a time when hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with possible cases.

Point-of-care diagnostics are also becoming increasingly important for laboratories, which are facing a backlog of samples for coronavirus testing as the number of global cases surpasses 470,000.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

26th March 2020

From: Healthcare

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