BY SHEETAL SINGH
Rapid-result test kits are being distributed across Australia today to increase the fight against the spread of potentially deadly COVID-19.
The new test ensures positive cases of the virus are detected within blood samples in three to 15 minutes, compared to the current mouth swab tests in use, which can take days for results to show.
The technology is distributed by Australian company Cellmid and its director of operations Dominic Burg said the rapid result test also ensures a greater proportion of the public can be tested, as the current test is only available for individuals who have been overseas, or have been exposed to a high-risk environment.
“The current system is overwhelmed and the tests are not being administered on many people,” Dr Burg said.
“Because of the new tests, it will be easier to test nurses, doctors and other essential workers and even those who are showing bare minimum symptoms and are not getting priority.”
Discussions concerning the pricing of the new test for patients are yet to be finalised, however it is expected to cost between $15-$20.
Dr Burg said the new kit has been tested on more than 600 people in China and the results show it works “very, very well”.
“Thankfully the Australian government has fast-tracked the process to get this test to the Australian public.”
Dr Burg said the test is very similar to the finger prick blood sugar test for diabetes.
The blood sample is then put into the test kit and mixed with a special liquid called a ‘buffer’.
Cellmid chief executive officer Maria Halasz said the detection kit will have considerable benefit for the Australian healthcare system.
In a media statement, Ms Halasz said Cellmid’s agreement with Chinese company Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech allows for “one of the fastest available” COVID-19 tests to be distributed in Australia.
“However, international demand for these tests is accelerating exponentially and to ensure ongoing supply over the next six months we need to act immediately,” Ms Halasz said.
The new test is an attractive option for people living in regional areas, as well as for regional and mobile screening centres.
Avalon resident and retail worker Anshumaan Nalluri said easy access to the new detection test is “definitely a plus”.
“I get in contact with dozens of people each day at my job so it’s a relief to know that I will be able to get tested as soon as I have even the slightest symptoms,” Mr Nalluri said.
“Current tests take days to give out results and in that period we have to isolate ourselves - it isn’t really ideal.”
The tests have a specificity of approximately 99.57 per cent according to multiple clinical validation studies.
The same rapid diagnostic test is already being used in several countries including The UK, Belgium, Spain and Germany.
At the time of publication 5,744 Australians have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with 36 people dying from the virus.