The coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve at a shocking rate. On Friday, the United States surpassed China as the country with the most cases. One of the biggest roadblocks to the country’s response is a lack of testing. Although states are finally starting to catch up, America lags behind several other nationalities in terms of testing per capita.
Now, a novel testing method from medical device maker Abbott is able to perform COVID-19 tests in as little as 15 minutes. The method just got emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that it can be put into use across the country. That’s a major breakthrough as the world continues to battle the coronavirus.
Faster Than Ever
Currently, testing for COVID-19 takes a matter of days. A patient who is suspected of having the virus must first arrive at a clinic for a nasal swab. The sample is then sent to an off-site lab for analysis. Due to this inefficient process, people are unable to get their results for several days.
The capability of testing for COVID-19 in minutes may help turn the tide in the battle against the virus.
Abbott’s new testing method utilizes the company’s ID NOW platform. The system is housed inside a small machine that performs a molecular-level test on each sample. Since the device weighs just 6.6 pounds and is the size of a toaster, it can be used in a provider’s office.
Rather than sending samples out for testing, hospitals of all sizes, urgent care clinics, and primary care offices will be able to perform COVID-19 testing on-site. That will drastically speed up the time it takes to get results and increase America’s overall testing capacity.
The innovative test searches for a specific gene in the virus’ DNA in order to confirm a positive result. If a sample contains the virus, Abbott’s ID NOW machine is able to return the results in under five minutes. Negative tests can take up to 13 minutes.
Testing is a key step that helps control the spread of the virus. Although it doesn’t directly contribute to a patient’s recovery, it does help the general population. Data acquired in conjunction with positive test results can guide governments and health officials to the best ways of curbing the spread.
As such, increasing testing capacities is a top priority for countries around the globe. Abbott plans to quickly distribute its ID NOW tests to healthcare institutions across the U.S.
In a company press release, Abbott says, “We’re ramping up production to deliver 50,000 ID NOW COVID-19 tests per day, beginning next week, to the U.S. healthcare system.”
It’s worth noting that the ID NOW hardware won’t simply go to waste after the pandemic subsides. Abbott’s molecular testing platform can also be used to screen for infections like Influenza, Strep A, and RSV. Since it is already widely available in healthcare settings across the country, a test that utilizes it is an ideal solution.