Big innovation: New gargle-and-spit COVID-19 test gives results in seconds
Countries around the world, including India, are aggressively testing and isolating people to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. They mostly use RT-PCR as the method of testing, but the technique is expensive and invasive. Now, to tackle this problem, a team of researchers in Israel has come up with a unique new gargle-and-spit test. Here is all you need to know about it.
The issue: Costly and invasive RT-PCR tests for COVID-19
As many know, RT-PCR COVID-19 tests are only conducted at facilities with specialized equipment and are pretty expensive worldwide. They take at least 15 minutes to give a result and the sample has to be collected from the nose/throat of the patient. So, if you are in US, you will have to get a stick inserted up your nose and pay $100 for that.
Newsight Imaging is testing a solution in Israel
To help avoid these issues, Newsight Imaging, a CMOS sensor maker for automotive and other industries, is testing a system called SpectraLIT. This ashtray-sized device processes a sample in a matter of seconds to tell whether a person has COVID-19 or not. And, the best part is the sample is collected simply by rinsing with a special mouthwash and spitting into a tube.
How the machine works?
Once the sample-filled tube is inserted into the USB-powered device, it shines a light on the mouthwash. In this analysis, some light is absorbed by the material, while the remaining falls on the sensors, which the machine uses to instantly determine the spectral signature of the sample and whether it matches that of a COVID-19 positive patient or not.
95% accuracy recorded so far
The device is being tested at Israel's largest hospital with 400 patients and the results have been 95% accurate so far. For comparison, RT-PCR is believed to have an accuracy of around 80%. Moreover, the whole rig can be operated by anyone, even someone who has no technical or medical knowledge. This makes it ideal for widespread testing.
"Reliable, cheap, and rapid"
"This system is very rapid, cheap, and is looking reliable," Prof. Eli Schwartz, head of the trial at the site told The Times of Israel. "It's suitable for mass screening, as well as airport screening, screening at nursing homes, and even screening at home."
Will it be available internationally?
As of now, the use of the new testing system is restricted to the Israeli hospital, but if the accuracy level continues to this good, the team expects it will be available internationally by the end of the year. Schwartz added, "The idea is to mostly replace PCR tests, especially in places where you need mass screening" and not viral load.
Price to start from $200
The makers of the device say that once the kit is in mass production it would cost around $200 for testing facilities. Meanwhile, the special mouthwash and tube would come at around 25 cents.