The corona rapid test finally seems to be becoming a reality

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A bright spot in otherwise dark times. This is how Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema (GroenLinks) described the development of the corona rapid test by the TNO research institute and a number of other scientific institutes on Wednesday morning.

This week the pilot test street of TNO and the GGD Amsterdam will open. There it is investigated whether the promising new rapid test is ready for practice.

Expectations are high. The molecular rapid test, under development since March, is faster, up to half the price of the usual test, and – in the lab – as reliable as the conventional PCR test, according to the research institute.

There is a great need for more and faster corona tests, said “a very concerned” Mayor Halsema at the launch of the test set-up next to the large GGD test facility in the Amsterdam RAI conference center. The infections and hospital admissions in the capital are increasing rapidly. The Greater Amsterdam region has the highest number of new corona infections per capita after five other regions in Western Europe, according to a study by RTL News.

Delay

The city cannot make use of delay in testing. Halsema: “Especially in a region where the number of infections is so high, delays are not only difficult for the people who are awaiting the test result, it also means that we cannot quickly find out where the source is.” The result: people go into quarantine too late or, unjustly, stay in it for too long. “Rapid tests protect people, but also ensure that we can better protect our city and with it our economy and our social life.”

Also read: Increase the chances of catching the virus: test quickly, often and often

From the end of this week, the trial test line for the rapid tests will be put into use. People who are tested for the coronavirus will be asked to provide a sample twice. One is then analyzed in the usual way. The other is subjected to the new molecular rapid test. The results are compared to see if the quick test is equally reliable. Earlier research showed that the test performs just as well as the PCR test, says TNO researcher Bart Keijser, who devised the rapid test. The trial in the RAI should show whether this is the case in practice. “If we start working with a thousand samples, the accuracy will not stay 100 percent, but it looks so good. This is a valid test. ”

The rapid test is based on the LAMP method, says Keijser. “We copy the genetic material of the virus in a very specific way. The enzymes are a kind of copying machines. ” Those concentrations can then be detected. The results of the rapid test are known within an hour: much faster than normal. “At the moment it takes two days before you can go to hospital and two days before you get the results. In the timescale of the virus, that’s half a life. ”

The great advantage of the LAMP method is that it requires less complicated equipment, because unlike the PCR test, the reactions can take place at one constant temperature. “It doesn’t really matter how you do that. Whether you do that in an oven or in a cup of tea. Everything is possible. You are therefore very flexible, ”says Keijser. Analysis can therefore be done on site – instead of being transported to a laboratory first.

Also read: Nine hurdles to fight a second wave

Scalability

The practical test should also show whether the number of quick tests can easily be expanded, says Keijser. “In principle, you should be able to handle three hundred to six hundred tests per hour. That’s a lot, but the entire work process must be flawless. ”

Over the next two months, the rapid test will work with enzymes that are imported from abroad, Keijser expects. Chemical concern DSM is currently investigating whether this can also be produced in the Netherlands, says Keijser. “That makes it even cheaper, but also more scalable.”

The practical test will be completed within a few weeks, expects Mariken van der Lubben, head of the regional laboratory of the GGD Amsterdam. After that, the method can be put into use. “But then you are not right about a few thousand samples a day. That will slowly increase. ”





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