Robert Bosch on Thursday said it has developed a diagnostic tool for detecting the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in under three hours, potentially aiding the challenge of understanding how far the virus has spread.
Bosch’s rapid molecular diagnostic test, which runs on its Vivalytic analysis device, can detect a SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infection in under two and a half hours, measured from the time the sample is taken to the time the result arrives.
Another advantage of the rapid test is that it can be performed directly at the point of care, Bosch said, eliminating the need to transport samples.
How are we testing now?
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a test that is said to be the most reliable method of diagnosing a viral infection in a patient. PCR is highly sensitive and detects the slightest existence of the virus in the sample.
To run PCR tests, a doctor swabs a patient’s nose or throat and sends the sample to a lab. The lab then looks for tiny snippets of the virus’s genetic material. The process, although complicated, is said to be very reliable.
However, in spite of being touted as the ‘gold-standard testing platform’ for viruses, the biggest hurdle for scientists is its turnaround time. PCR tests are relatively slow.
Physicians would, ideally, be able to run tests in an office or at a patient’s bedside. However, due to a lack of large-scale investment, there has not been a way to commercialise such a test even when the technology exists.
Currently, the samples have to be repeatedly brought up to high heat and back down in a process called thermocycling, which is done on a specific machine. The process takes hours to generate results, which ideally should not be the case when handling pandemics.
“Not every lab can do PCR. It requires a very clean lab, and it’s hard to troubleshoot,” Catherine Klapperich, director of the Laboratory for Diagnostics and Global Healthcare Technologies at Boston University, said in a report by The Verge.
Labs that can do PCR testing need special approval to run tests for patients, and getting permission can take months.
Normally, PCR methods work well. But in an infectious disease outbreak, when diagnosing patients quickly is of utmost importance.