U.S. health regulators have approved a new coronavirus test that will speed up by tenfold the ability to test patients, helping solve a significant obstacle to American efforts to contain the virus. This is reported by Bloomberg.
“We are increasing the speed definitely by a factor of 10,” Thomas Schinecker, head of the Swiss drugmaker’s diagnostics unit, said in an interview.
Testing is crucial to stem the spread of Covid-19 because it allows health care workers to identify the infected and quarantine them, even if they’re not experiencing many symptoms. That can potentially reduce the overall number of infections and buy time for drugmakers to come up with better treatments and, ultimately, a vaccine.
This is the third test -- and first commercially available one -- granted emergency approval by the FDA. The agency in February cleared diagnostic tools brought forth by the CDC and the New York State Department of Public Health.
The U.S. and much of Europe have been criticized for testing their populations too slowly, allowing the virus to proliferate. Roche’s cobas systems, launched in 2014, are widely available globally, with 695 of the 6800 instruments and 132 of the 8800 systems already installed.
There are 110 of these tools in the U.S., and Roche has installed a “significant amount” of new ones in key locations in the U.S. in recent weeks, Schinecker said. Roche declined to specify how many of those units are 8800 and how many are 6800 models.
“We definitely extended the capacity of the testing significantly throughout the U.S,” Schinecker said.
The tests analyze nucleic acids extracted from patients’ saliva or mucus, and compare them against sequences found in coronavirus strains, including SARS and the one that emerged in Wuhan, China.