A rapid antigen-based test developed at the University of Helsinki could be used to process up to 500 samples per hour, the project's researchers said in a university statement issued on Wednesday.
The rapid tests, which can also be used to quickly check for other respiratory illnesses, are also said to be able to identify the presence of coronavirus almost as accurately as sensitive PCR tests carried out in laboratories.
The study demonstrated that the technique can be used to diagnose Covid-19, according to Jussi Hepojoki, docent of virology and Academy of Finland research fellow at the University of Helsinki.
"We demonstrated that the technique we have developed was able to detect almost all positive specimens, from which we were able to isolate [Covid-19] in cell culture. In other words, the carriers were likely to continue to spread the virus at the time of sample collection," Hepojoki said in the statement.
How it works
The equipment needed for the rapid test is about the size of a desktop computer, making it theoretically possible to carry out testing in any situation.
"According to our calculations, it would be possible to manually analyse as many as 500 samples per hour, with one person doing the testing and using a single testing device. Also, the cost of test reagents is fairly low," Hepojoki said.
Like its PCR counterpart, the antigen-based rapid test uses a sample swabbed from a person's nasopharynx — deep within the nose. Then, about 10 minutes after mixing the sample in a test solution containing antibodies, a result with a high degree of certainty is reached.
The test is based on a phenomenon called 'time-resolved Förster resonance energy transfer,' or TR-FRET.
"TR-FRET makes it possible to measure viral particles or the body’s own proteins by using what are known as 'mix and read'-type tests on complex biological samples, such as serum or even whole blood," the statement explained.
A report about the initiative by the research group was published this week in the peer-reviewed scientific journal mBio.