According to a new report, the U.S. military has created a COVID-19 test capable of identifying the disease in patients before they show symptoms or become contagious.
According to The Guardian, resources that were being deployed to studying germ and chemical warfare have been used by the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to produce a test that can identify the presence of COVID-19 in the blood.
As opposed to current testing methods, which include the invasive use of a nasal swab that is prone to human error and that can produce false negatives, the DARPA test could identify a person’s blood response to the virus and can help in mitigating its spread, rather than simply diagnosing it.
The new test can also diagnose COVID-19 in a patient in as little as 24 hours.
Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates put the virus incubation period between two and 14 days, while current testing cannot detect the virus until several days after infection.
Dr. Brad Ringeisen, the head of the DARPA biological technologies office, told The Guardian the test would be a “game changer” with regard to helping the international scientific community track cases of COVID-19.
“The concept fills a diagnostic gap worldwide,” he said.
Ringeisen added that the test is awaiting emergency FDA approval.
The capability of having such an early COVID-19 test could help isolate sick or asymptotic carriers of the disease before they infect others, and could also more quickly rule out the presence of the disease among people with only suspected cases.
The quick results would cut down on the need for people with suspected infections to self-isolate for prolonged periods of time and allow them to return to normal activities.
DARPA will work with medical schools from Duke University and Princeton University, as well as Mount Sinai hospital in New York City, in making the research behind the testing public for use internationally.
“The goal of research is to develop and validate an early host blood response diagnostic test for COVID,” Mount Sinai hospital professor Stuart Sealfon told The Guardian.
“We are all extremely excited. We want to roll this test out as quickly as we can, but at the same time share with others who might want to implement in their own countries,” DARPA’s Dr. Eric Van Gieson told the outlet.
“We have evidence that diagnosis happens in the first 24 hours for influenza and an adenovirus,” Van Gieson added. “We are still in the midst of proving that with COVID-19.”
DARPA researchers hope to gain emergency use approval from the FDA within a week, and could deploy 100,000 tests a week by later this month.
Van Gieson said a million of the tests could eventually be administered a day in the U.S.
The announcement of the DARPA tests comes as mass testing for antibodies is underway in an attempt to determine how far the infection has spread beyond patients who have tested positive.
The New York Post reported Swiss drug company Roche had received emergency FDA approval Sunday to begin rolling out a test that has been 100 percent accurate in identifying antibodies in blood and 98.8 percent accurate in ruling out the presence of an immune body to COVID-19.
Improved COVID-19 testing procedures could potentially assist in preventing widespread transmission of the virus as states continue to open back up, and as some warn a second wave of the disease could strike in the autumn months.
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