A promising new COVID-19 test developed at Michigan State University can reportedly determine results within as little as five minutes, with just a simple mouth swab. The test is also capable of analyzing up to 22 samples at once, according to a report by the Lansing State Journal. Tests like this could be vital in resuming normal life amid the coronavirus global pandemic.
Dr. Brett Etchebarne of the university's College of Osteopathic Medicine reportedly developed this new COVID-19 test, using supplies that are already common in most laboratories and medical facilities. The testing time is generally between five and seven minutes. The test has not gotten approval from the FDA yet, though given the emergency nature of the pandemic, the FDA has significantly loosened restrictions on tests for COVID-19. Therefore, Etchebarne's test could be in wide use sooner rather than later.
"The goal is definitely to help alleviate some testing locally and expand this as widely as possible," Etchebarne told reporters. "We have a big population here at MSU we need to take care of."
Etchebarne hopes the test could get approved within a matter of weeks, depending on how fast the food and drug administration moves on it. His test uses polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines to directly test for the presence of the virus in the body — as opposed to "indirect" blood tests, which test for antibodies indicating that the body has come into contact with the virus.
Etchebarne is an emergency medicine specialist with a long background in pathogen recognition technology. His past work includes rapid respiratory panels that can screen for illnesses like the flu or pneumonia.
"You really bring on board a high capacity for increased throughput for testing, paired with ease of use and speed of results," Etchebarne said. "To me, it's a logical next step to develop the technology in real-time for real-time infections."
Testing remains one of the biggest issues in the United States' coronavirus crisis. Experts have very little definitive data on immunity to COVID-19, so even those who have survived the virus are potential risks for transmission in the coming months. Widespread testing and contact tracing are vital steps towards reopening public spaces in the time before a vaccine is successfully developed.