From point-of-care kits to mass sampling and breath analysis, Israelis are inventing faster, more accurate tests that could finally let us get to grips with corona.
The Covid-19 coronavirus is speeding past all the stop signs that countries have put in its way. How can we put the brakes on the pandemic?
One solution is faster, more accurate testing to ensure carriers are identified and go into isolation before infecting others.
It can take one to five days to get results from the standard reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test to identify the virus’ RNA genetic material on nasal and throat swabs.
Wait times are longer because of high demand and because samples must be sent to a lab from the point of care and are manually processed.
Furthermore, a negative result may mean only that the viral load wasn’t yet detectable on the day you were sampled, says Dr. Moran Szwarcwort-Cohen, director of the virology lab of Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, one of about 40 coronavirus testing labs in Israel. “The next day, you might test positive.”
Szwarcwort-Cohen tells ISRAEL21c that the most critical need is fast testing at the point of care. Probably more than one type will be deployed.
“They will come into use soon, but I cannot say how long it will take to get validation and approval for each new technique and technology,” she says. “We need to know the limitations of each technique, how to use it and how to interpret the results.”
But Israel is a small country, and the validation process requires many patient samples. That’s why the Ministry of Defense Directorate of Defense Research and Development is sending a delegation to India with four Israeli Covid testing prototypes.
The Israelis will collect tens of thousands of samples in 10 days and analyze them [using a few technologies, including] an isothermal test (NAOR) being developed by Rapid Diagnostic Systems.
Rambam Health Care’s research collaboration with the nearby Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is yielding a variety of Covid testing solutions. One [now being commercialized as NAOR] is a rapid test using saliva samples mixed with reactive material and then placed in a heating device. Color-coded results appear in about 40 minutes, yellow for positive or pink for negative.
This method could become the basis of a mass testing kit for workplaces, points of care and households, says Technion Prof. Naama Geva-Zatorsky.
Her lab developed the technique with the involvement of Szwarcwort-Cohen; Dr. Mical Paul, director of the Infectious Diseases Institute at Rambam; and Prof. Michal Paul, chief the infectious diseases unit at Meir Medical Center. It is being developed by Rapid Diagnostic Systems (see above).
The test’s reliability was measured using 200 biological samples from confirmed coronavirus patients and patients suspected of infection with the virus, supplied by Rambam’s coronavirus biobank.
Geva-Zatorsky said the test identifies 99% of cases when there are medium or high concentrations of the virus. Her lab is now working to improve sensitivity to the presence of the virus in low concentrations.
“We see this test as suitable for use at entrances to hospitals, workplaces, nursing homes, airports, and in drive-through facilities,” she said.
“The most significant innovation,” said Paul, “is that the test can be carried out on site, within an hour, eliminating the need to send the saliva to a special lab.”
The original article is accessible at https://www.israel21c.org/how-israeli-scientists-are-improving-corona-testing/