JERUSALEM, Israel – Reliable testing remains one of the most crucial aspects in the global battle against the novel coronavirus. Scientists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are tackling Israel’s test shortage by developing a new method of testing that they claim is cheaper and faster than the standard one.
Professor Nir Friedman, at the university’s Institute of Life Sciences and School of Engineering and Computer Science, partnered with Professor Naomi Habib at HU’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science to spearhead the project.
"The virus detection protocol we developed is four-to-ten times faster than the current protocol,” Prof. Habib explained. “It’s based on magnetic beads and works both robotically and manually. The robotic protocol has already been tested at Hadassah Hospital and is now fully operational.”
The current standard test for COVID-19 involves extracting RNA molecules from a patient’s swab sample to see if it contains viral RNA. If it does, this confirms the virus’ presence in the body.
Friedman and Habib’s test does the same thing, but faster.
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Their protocol relies on cheaper materials than the current test and is easily manufactured locally in Israel. The only component of the test that needs to be imported into Israel are the magnetic beads, which can be used more than once.
"Our COVID-19 test significantly reduces labs’ dependence on external factors. To date, we’ve tested hundreds of clinical samples from Hadassah Hospital and our results were identical to those found by the kits currently being used,” said Friedman.
Now, the researchers are working on a way to test tens of thousands of swab samples at the same time.
"We’re encouraged by preliminary—and positive indications—that this method will work,” said Friedman.
The US-based global healthcare company called Abbott has also developed a portable system that can test for the novel coronavirus in as little as five minutes.
The company claims it has the fastest available point-of-care test for COVID-19, delivering positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Abbott’s test.
"Through the incredible work of teams across Abbott, we expect to deliver 50,000 COVID-19 tests per day to healthcare professionals on the front lines, where testing capabilities are needed most," said Chris Scoggins, senior vice president, Rapid Diagnostics, Abbott. "Portable molecular testing expands the country's capacity to get people answers faster."