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February 9, 2022, 02.29 PM - Chinese scientists say they have developed a Covid-19 test that can process results as accurately as PCR tests in less than four minutes.

PCR tests are the most accurate on the market but must be processed in a lab, which so far takes a few hours at minimum. When labs are overwhelmed by local surges in infection, processing can last days.

Quicker, 15-minute rapid antigen tests are less reliable than the PCR alternative.

Researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai collected nasal samples from 33 PCR-positive Covid-19 patients, 23 PCR-negative patients, six influenza-positive patients, and 25 healthy volunteers. The test accurately processed all cases without error in under four minutes, according to a peer-reviewed study published Monday, Feb.7 in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

PCR tests are more precise than antigen tests because they are more sensitive. Antigen tests require a higher concentration of the virus than PCR tests to show a positive result. This means antigen tests are more likely to show a false negative.

Also readIndonesia Prevents Covid-19 Swab Test from Unwanted Business Interests: Health Ministry

Antigen tests seek pieces of virus-infected proteins, while PCR tests search for viral genetic material like nucleic acids and RNA.

Until now, no technology has been created to properly detect Covid-infected nucleic acids and RNA without using extraction and amplification methods, for which you need a lab environment.

The Fudan University research was conducted on a small sample, said Andrew Ching, a professor of economics jointly appointed to the Johns Hopkins Department of Economics and the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If the 100 percent accuracy rate were to hold up in a larger test sample, Ching said, “it could be a game-changer.”


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