PCR tests have been hailed as the gold-standard in detecting and isolating COVID-19 cases. But they are more expensive than antigen tests and need a laboratory to process. This means it can take hours or even days of waiting to get the result. People usually relied on antigenic tests to monitor the spread of the virus and restore confidence back to society.
Antigen tests have advantages and disadvantages. Advantages is that everyone can use it. They are cheap and they are fast. Disadvantages is that they are not as accurate as PCR tests.”
Anna Odone, Professor of Public Health, University of Pavia
Since April 2020 CORONADX, a European research project that includes researchers from Italy, Austria, Sweden and China is developing a portable device, called PATHPOD. Using “lab on a chip” technology, the system is able to detect COVID-19 positive cases on the spot.
The testing system has the accuracy of a molecular test and the speed of an antigen kit. A cartridge of samples is filled and loaded into the testing machine. Within an hour of a swab being taken and without taking the sample to a laboratory, the results are shown on the screen.
“The system can be operated anywhere, it’s battery-powered, and it can basically be operated by anyone with a minimum of training.” says Mogens Madsen, member of the CORONADX Project, working at the Danish Technical University.
This technology could be a game changer in copying with COVID-19 in places where there is no easy access to laboratories or to electricity (such as cruise ship, islands or remote villages).
Moreover, the system could then be used for rapid detection of viruses beyond the current pandemic, as it can be adapted to other pathogens.