TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A task force formed by Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) has developed a test kit that can detect the virus that causes Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) within one hour and has an accuracy of over 90 percent, far higher than recent Chinese versions.
In a press release issued on Wednesday (April 15), ITRI, the largest applied research institute in Taiwan, announced that a task force comprised of ITRI researchers, the National Defense Medical Center, and four private companies had collaborated to develop a new nucleic acid test kit for the disease. The institute said the new test kit is superior to conventional methods, as it is not only faster but also precise, lightweight, and sensitive.
After clinicians take a swab sample from a patient's throat or nose, the new test kit will analyze it for the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. The kit will then produce results within one hour, which is 75 percent faster than conventional tests.
According to the institute, the tests are highly sensitive in that they can detect infections as early as Day 0 to Day 7 during the incubation period, when viral concentration is still low. Despite their rapid results, the tests have an accuracy level of 90 percent, far higher than the 20 to 40 percent accuracy rate of Chinese-made test kits that were peddled to the Philippines, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
In addition, the test kit is about the size and shape of a soda can and only weighs about 600 grams, while traditional devices weigh 57 times that amount. This means that the device is much more portable for medical professionals who need to carry out rapid tests in the field.
The institute said that it will cooperate with industrial partners, government sectors, research institutes, and medical centers, including the National Defense Medical Center's Institute of Preventive Medicine, hospitals, and four companies on large-scale production of the test kits. The institute estimates that the production of the kits at its GMP pilot plant will begin at the end of June.
The organization hopes that by the end of July, it will be ready to transfer the technology to manufacturers to begin mass production of the kits. The institute said that its aim is to provide an accurate rapid testing solution for frontline health care workers as soon as possible.