Corona: US military develops rapid Covid-19 test
Research into biological warfare agents - and now after Covid-19 tests.
by Monique Ryser - Specialists in biological and chemical warfare have switched research to corona. Test should indicate infection immediately.
[This article published on 5/3/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.infosperber.ch/Artikel/Gesundheit/Corona-US-Militars-entwickeln-schnellen-Antikorpertest.]
It would be a great help in the fight against the spread of the corona virus: a blood test that detects the infection within 24 hours, i.e. before the disease becomes infectious. Previous tests only detect the virus days after infection, when the viral load is already high - in other words, when the infected person is already passing on the virus.
As the British newspaper "The Guardian" reports, a specialized department of the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (Darpa) has developed the test. "The concept fills a gap in diagnostics," Brad Ringeisen is quoted as saying. Ringeisen is the head of Darpa's department of biological technologies. The test will be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week and an emergency use approval will be requested.
Disclosing the basis of scientific research
"Our test would be an absolute breakthrough," says Ringeisen. It would massively improve the diagnosis of infected persons and enable them to be quickly quarantined so that they do not infect other people. The test should be introduced as soon as possible. He specifies mid-May as the date. "We are all very excited and want to share the basics with the scientific community so that other countries can also produce tests," explains Eric Van Gieson, head of the Darpa's epigenetic identification and monitoring department. The Chinese have also made the genome of the virus public, which has led to the rapid and efficient development of tests. Van Gieson's group normally deals with the diagnosis of biological warfare agents, but when Covid-19 broke out, research immediately switched to the new corona virus.
Test runs on previous test machines
Specialists from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Duke University and Princeton University are already working on the program. The Californian life science company Fluidigm is also involved. "Once the approval is in place and proof of efficacy is provided, the demand could be huge," says Chris Linthwait, CEO of Fluidigm.
The blood test will run on testing machines from previous Covid-19 tests, which would be a great relief when it is introduced. Like the previous tests, the new blood test looks for the molecule type RNA. In this case, however, the messenger of the RNA molecule - the mRNA for messenger RNA - is sought. "The mRNA is part of the immune defense," explains Stuart Sealfon from the research team at Mount Sinai Hospital. These messenger substances are formed immediately after an infection. They are also crucial for understanding the immune system. "This is the key to fighting Covid-19."
The researchers are aware that a blood test is more time-consuming than previous throat swabs. But: "I am very concerned that the tests with the throat swabs are not very reliable. The images from drive-in test sites did not look very trustworthy," Lawrence Young of Warwick University Medical School is quoted by The Guardian as saying. The risk of false results is very high, he says. "A blood test would be more accurate."