CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan researchers develop rapid test kit for COVID-19

09/17/2020 05:46 PM
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Photo from Pixabay for illustrative purposes only
Photo from Pixabay for illustrative purposes only

Taipei, Sept. 17 (CNA) A Taiwanese research team said Thursday that it has developed a COVID-19 test kit that can deliver results in about 15 minutes with 80-90 percent accuracy.

The rapid test is likely to be ready for release on the market by the end of the year, according to the team of researchers from the National Defense Medical Center (NDMC) and the National Health Research Institutes (NHRI), during an introduction of the kit at a promotional event for the upcoming Taiwan Innotech Expo.

In an interview later with CNA, Lai Szu-chia (賴思佳), an associate researcher at the NDMC's Institute of Preventative Medicine, said the two greatest challenges to developing the test were isolating viral strains and setting up a viral antigen bank, which took four months and three months, respectively.

That work was necessary to maximize the sensitivity and specificity of the test kit, the two main factors that determine its performance, she said.

A highly sensitive test should capture all true positive results, while a highly specific test should rule out all true negative results, according to Lai.

In its work on the rapid test kit, the team received technical assistance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and nearly NT$10 million (US$343,104) in funding from the NHRI, Lai said.

Once the test kit was completed, the technology was transferred to five corporations -- Trison Technology Corp., Taiwan Advance Bio-pharmaceutical Inc., Taiwan Carbon Nano Technology Corp., Enimmune and Cold Spring Biotech Corp. -- for trial production and clinical testing, Lai said.

One of the manufacturers has already requested emergency use authorization (EUA) from Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration and hopes to have the test kit on the market by the end of the year, she added.

The newly developed test kit is different from the commonly used PCR tests, which are highly accurate but also have longer processing times and are labor-intensive, according to Lai.

She said the rapid test kit uses a nasal swab and can deliver results with 80-90 percent accuracy in as little as 15 minutes.

It is therefore a good option for testing at airports and in schools and nursing homes, Lai said, adding that it will help ease the burden on frontline medical personnel.

The 2020 Taiwan Innotech Expo, an annual exhibition of innovative technologies hosted by Taiwan's government, will be held Sept. 24-29 at the Taipei World Trade Center.

(By Liang Pei-chi and Matthew Mazzetta)

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