All over the world, coronavirus cases are rising at an alarming rate of 886,108 and a death toll of 44,227 according to current tally. Because of these figures, the urgency of developing a reliable coronavirus test kit is important. Developing a test kit with fast and reliable results can potentially save thousands of lives.
An improved rapid COVID-19 test kit made by Abbott Laboratories was approved on March 27 and it will be used for doctor's offices, emergency care, as well as smaller hospitals with no high-tech equipment. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved this rapid test kit, which is guaranteed to give results in as little as five minutes.
How does rapid test kits work?
Abbott developed and scaled down a testing device, comparable to the size of a toaster called Abbott ID NOW. It is already used in many hospitals to test flu, strep and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). With this rapid test, patients can get their results while waiting.
This system checks for COVID-19 by using a $40 cartridge, same as replacement ink cartridges for printers. Results are interpreted as genetic signatures of the COVID-19 and insurers will pay the cost of the test that is the same as the ID NOW test for flu, so no extra costs are incurred by patients.
Compared to Chinese test kits, these rapid kits have excellent standard approved by the US government. Abbott's device causes the outer virus shell to crack and to release the genetic material inside called RNA.
After this, engineered chemical processes will amp up all the loose RNA and the nano-sized molecular detectors will detect even the smallest amounts of COVID-19 material to get a positive reading.
Rapid tests use more advanced technology than older methods to catch the mutant RNA. ID NOW cab process and work at a constant temperature, which allows faster processing of tests and also cuts the waiting time for patients.
Drawbacks of the improved COVID-19 rapid test kit
One disadvantage of the faster ID NOW technology is all about volume, as this is where non-rapid testers shine. Most traditional test materials can process many tests, whereas the ID NOW can only handle limited tests. The Abbott machine can only process about four samples in 60 minutes.
One more drawback of the ID NOW is it takes some 'optimization and refining', according to John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics.
Despite the long wait in traditional tests, they can be left alone so that the doctor can move to the next patient faster. With rapid testing, the equipment takes more effort to develop and takes longer time to prep.
On the other hand, one of the best benefits of the ID NOW is it can be done in an offsite lab. It can be used without expensive lab setups which makes it a mobile testing centre that doesn't require high-tech setups. With these rapid test kits, no need to wait for long.
In the long run, getting rapid results for coronavirus test als provides ease not only for the suspected patients, but for their family and medical staff as well. It allows patients to know when to isolate and quarantine. Those with high levels of the virus take 5 minutes, but if there is less then it will test for 15 minutes at most.
Frels added for the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott will increase making more coronavirus test cartridges. They are aiming to manufacture 50,000 per day that can make a tremendous change for the coronavirus patients.