Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency approval for a new automated test for the coronavirus providing a boost to the strained American medical setup as it looks to contain the rapid spread of the virus in the country.
The test has been developed by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding. The machines needed for the new tests, the Cobas 8800/6800 systems, are already available in 100 American laboratories. The 8800 system is capable of testing 4,128 patients a day, and the 6800 version can test as many as 1,440. The tool will also be available in Europe and countries that accept its CE marking for medical devices. Roche’s diagnostic machine will give doctors the result in less than four hours.
“We are increasing the speed definitely by a factor of 10,” said Thomas Schinecker, head of Roche’s diagnostics unit, in an interview with Bloomberg.
The cobas 8800 system can test patients about 10 times faster than Roche’s existing test for the coronavirus, which runs on its MagNA Pure 24 and the LightCycler 480 devices.
There have been 1,629 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States at the time of writing this piece, but there are concerns that the true scale of the outbreak could be much worse given the limited access to tests for the Covid-19 disease. Faulty test kits and a lack in early testing is believed to have contributed to the further spread of Covid-19, epidemiologists at Johns Hopkins University wrote in the Journal of the American Medicine Association this week.
The new method holds much significance given the fact that the virus has no outright cure for now. Scientists estimate a time-frame of at least 2 years to develop an antidote. As a result, the only tool humanity has at the moment is the timely detection of the virus so that the spread can be controlled. Hence, a faster method is more than welcome.
After the announcement, Roche shares soared at 11% higher even though markets throughout the world witnessed continued free-falls, the steepest increase in a day since 1997.