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Coronavirus: Thailand launches trials for 15-minute test

Team behind new test hope it will ease pressure on hospitals by screening people early

Chiara Giordano
Wednesday 01 April 2020 10:14
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A new rapid Covid-19 test which gives a result within 15 minutes has been rolled out in Thailand.

The team behind the strip test at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok, hope it will take pressure off hospitals by screening people early.

They stressed it has not been designed to replace the conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used by doctors after collecting throat and nasal swabs.

But it should ease the burden on the country’s hospitals, where waiting lists for the PCR test are now three to four days long because of an influx of patients as the outbreak intensifies.

Professor Narin Hiransuthikul, head of Chulalongkorn University’s Covid-19 emergency operation centre, where the trial was launched on Monday, said the new test involves a nurse pricking a patient’s finger to draw blood, which is then added to the strip test.

The test works by detecting antibodies (IgG & IgM) in the blood to confirm whether the person has or previously had Covid-19.

It gives a positive or negative result within about 10 to 15 minutes, compared to the regular PCR test which takes about twice as long.

Dr Hiransuthikul told the Bangkok Post anyone who tests positive will immediately be sent to hospital for the standard PCR test to confirm they have the virus.

Those who receive a negative result will be asked to return for another test in three days, he added.

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The expert said his team had carried out more than 100 trials of the test with 95 per cent accuracy.

He told the Bangkok Post the new test would be a “game changer” as he believed there were about “four to five times as many patients” as those officially confirmed.

Thailand confirmed 120 new cases and two more deaths on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 1,771 and 12 fatalities.

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