Technion researchers say that under certain conditions, the kit has achieved a 99 percent success rate of identifying the coronavirus and delivers results in under an hour
Researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology are developing a kit for home testing for the coronavirus, a process they say is simple, quick and cheap – and showing an excellent success rate.
Little more is needed than two test tubes and a container of hot water. The researchers say they have achieved a 99 percent success rate when viral loads are high or moderate and when using swabs taking samples from the nose or throat. In recent days, the test has also been successful when testing saliva.
Leading this study is Naama Geva-Zatorsky of the Technion’s medical faculty, who said the kit uses materials that identify the virus’ genetic material. The innovation is in adapting the method for home use [and for mass scale], she said, with results obtained in under an hour.
“Once we obtain the Health Ministry’s approval, we can distribute this kit widely,” she said, adding that the kits could go to health maintenance organizations and geriatric institutions as well as to homes. And in the future, the method can be used to detect other viruses and pathogens.
The method is being developed in collaboration with Moran Szwarcwort-Cohen, the head of the medical faculty’s virology lab, and Prof. Michal Paul, director of the infectious diseases institute at Rambam Medical Center.
“If a sample has coronavirus RNA, the acidity of the sample drops, and within half an hour the color of the test tube changes from red to yellow,” Geva-Zatorsky said. “So you can get an answer on whether someone has the virus with an unaided eye, without needing to extract RNA, and without fancy equipment, robots or machines for measuring DNA. You get results on the spot.”
Geva-Zatorsky said she got the idea for this method from two colleagues in the field, Shai Kaplan and Asaf Rotem, “who checked these materials at home and discovered their potential. They then approached me with the idea of developing a protocol.”
The researchers tested the kit on 250 samples. They are now testing the kit’s effectiveness at lower doses of the virus and say the results have been promising.
The tests were done using a database of samples obtained from infected people; the database was set up by Rambam’s Clinical Research Institute.
“Dozens of COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized here in recent weeks,” says Shlomit Yehudai-Reshef, the head of the research institute. “Samples were taken from them not just for diagnosis and verification, but for this study, which is being done on samples taken throughout the course of the illness. These tests can teach us about the virus – about which too little is known.”
Each sample also has detailed information about the patient’s condition throughout the course of the disease.