News that Abbott Laboratories has developed a five minute test for the Wuhan virus is a true game changer.
The medical device manufacturer made the announcement earlier this week, saying that it plans to supply 50,000 tests a day beginning April 1.
According to John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics, the molecular test looks for fragments of the corona virus genome.
Existing tests for the presence of the virus can take hours and even days to process.
So far the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized the new device for laboratories and patient care settings.
This will be a boon to hospitals who have struggled to perform tests in the wake of the Wuhan virus pandemic. Most were restricting testing to high-risk individuals because of a shortage of tests and the time required to process the samples.
“This is really going to provide a tremendous opportunity for front-line caregivers, those having to diagnose a lot of infections, to close the gap with our testing,” Frels said. “A clinic will be able to turn that result around quickly, while the patient is waiting.”
A fast test, however, is of greater importance to the community at large in all countries dealing with the pandemic.
After all, at some point we all need to get people working again. We have already lost trillions of dollars in production and ill-afford to lose more in the coming months.
A fast test would allow governments to find out just how many people have contracted the infection and how many people have not been exposed. It would enable health authorities to test people who work with vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with underlying illnesses.
That is the key to getting people back to work. It would allow authorities to accurately assess risk.
The current approach basically assumes everyone is infectious and, as a consequence, needs to be isolated.
We cannot continue with lock downs indefinitely. That’s just not doable. Millions upon millions of people are unemployed struggling to make ends meet. The risk of a depression, let alone a recession is very real.
At some point, we all need to move forward and this test is the key to unlocking the door.
Widespread testing, of course, will require mass production and considerably more production than 50,000 per day.
But Abbott is not the only company working on fast test. Bosch has a test that can detect the virus in under two and half hours. There is also a U.K. company as well as a Canadian company that are working on fast tests.
In the next couple of weeks, we may have the tools necessary to get our economies back on track.
Good news indeed.