Prototype Covid test delivers results three times faster than lateral flow

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French researchers have developed a coronavirus test that they say delivers results three times faster than rapid lateral flow antigen tests with – according to initial trial data – almost the same accuracy as more reliable, but slower, PCR tests.

The electrochemical test, which uses nanobodies taken from the camelid group of animals, returns a result within 10 minutes and, in an early test of 300 samples, proved 90% as accurate as a PCR test for both positive and negative results. It is being developed by scientists at Lille and Marseille universities and from the French national scientific research centre CNRS.

The test does not require processing in a laboratory and the result can be read on a smartphone.

“It could be mass-produced very quickly, and has obvious application in hospitals and airports but also for family doctors and pharmacists,” David Devos, a pharmacology professor at the University of Lille, told local media.

Highly sensitive PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests are the most reliable widely used way of detecting Covid-19, but are expensive to perform and, because they must be processed in lab conditions, patients can often wait up to 48 hours for a result.

Cheap rapid lateral flow antigen tests, which mix a nasal or throat swab with liquid on a paper strip, typically deliver results inside half an hour, but are the subject of heated scientific debate since they tend to detect only high viral loads so miss many people with lower levels of the virus…

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