Taiwan develops fast, accurate coronavirus test kit

Photo courtesy of the ITRI.

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan researchers have developed a new nucleic acid test kit for the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, and it can produce results in an hour, with 90 percent accuracy, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) said Wednesday.

The kit was developed by ITRI researchers in cooperation with the National Defense Medical Center and four private companies, ITRI President Edwin Liu (劉文雄) said, during the unveiling of the test kit at a press conference in Taipei.

Similar in size to a soda can, the test kit is “highly accurate, lightweight, sensitive and efficient,” the ITRI said.

The test kit analyzes samples obtained by swabbing the patient’s throat or nasal passage to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, and the result is produced within an hour compared to four hours for other early detection tests, the ITRI said.

According to the ITRI, the new test can detect the coronavirus 0-7 days after infection, including in pre-symptomatic patients.

The kit is similar to the widely used quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) test but is 57 times lighter at 600 grams, the ITRI said.

Lin Chii-wann (林啟萬), director of the ITRI’s biomedical technology and device research laboratories, said the institute plans to complete the required regulatory applications by the end of the month and have the test kits ready for mass production by July.

If everything goes as planned, 1 million test kits will be available by the end of the year, he said.

Meanwhile, a Taiwan company that developed another rapid test kit for the SARS-CoV-2 virus has obtained approval from the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin production, FDA Director-General Wu Shou-mei (吳秀梅) said at a legislative hearing Wednesday.

The test, which can return results in 85 minutes, is in the clinical test stage at Taiwan hospitals, Wu said.

She did not disclose the name of the company that developed the test, but an Apple Daily report identified it as the Taichung-based GeneReach Biotechnology.