University in Taiwan develops quick test for severe COVID-19 infections

Kit significant identifies infection status, prompts intervention in high-risk cases

Test kit for severe COVID-19 infections (National Tsing Hua University photo)

Test kit for severe COVID-19 infections (National Tsing Hua University photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A research university in Taiwan’s Hsinchu City has developed a quick test for COVID-19 patients who may be likely to fall severely ill, which is conducive to timely intervention and lower fatality rates.

Requiring just a droplet of the patient’s blood plasma, a result will come out in less than two minutes. Similar to pregnancy tests, the appearance of two lines on the window of the test kit indicates a positive result, according to Cheng Chao-min (鄭兆珉), professor at the National Tsing Hua University’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering and leader of the project.

The screening works by analyzing the level of Interleukin 6 (IL-6) in the plasma, which acts as a cytokine. An over-active immune reaction called the “cytokine storm” has been associated with many fatal cases of the coronavirus.

Those whose test results show two stripes suggest they’re experiencing severe inflammation and may soon require emergency medical treatment, such as intubation and ventilators, said Cheng. The tool can be used to get a better grasp of patients’ conditions and allows for more effective distribution of medical resources — the key to their survival.

An application has been filed to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization of the product. Once approved, it will enter mass production and become a valuable tool for medical staff working on the front line.

Professor Chen Chao-min works with test kit. (National Tsing Hua University photo)