Researchers at Hamilton’s McMaster University are said to be close to developing a test for COVID-19 that can be administered at home.
The test, which would be self-administered, would function much like a home pregnancy test in that a result would be available within 20 minutes of taking it, a press release from the university says.
“The COVID-19 self-diagnosis kit would be configured to detect the genetic material of the virus,” the release explains.
“A user would collect a mucus sample on a swab and insert it into a small vial of liquid, which would break down the virus to release genetic material in the sample, which would then undergo amplification at room temperature. Once applied to a test strip, the liquid would generate a test line, similar to that in a pregnancy test, to signal whether the new coronavirus was present.”
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The test could potentially be ready for production in a matter of a few months, said John Brennan, the Director of Mac’s Biointerfaces Institute where the research is being undertaken.
The research on this particular test is so far along because researchers at the Institute have been working on similar tests for infections such as E. coli and C. difficile.
“Before the pandemic, Biointerfaces Institute researchers had been working on a home test for H. pylori, the bacterium that causes peptic ulcers and other digestive problems,” the release says.
“That technology is now being adapted to detect COVID-19.”
Current tests for COVID-19 require that the test be administered and tested in lab settings. There’s a lag between having the test taken, sending it to the lab and getting the results, Brennan said.
Not only would this clear up a testing backlog that Ontario is experiencing at the moment, but it could potentially go a long way to preventing community spread.
“We’re looking down the road at the next wave of testing, which we expect is going to be home-based self-testing,” Brennan said in the release.
“We want to get a self-administered test out the door as quickly as we can. It could be really important for identifying new clusters and stopping community spread by asymptomatic carriers.”
The research team is currently looking for private and public partnerships to take the research into the next phase of development and eventually bringing it to the public, the release says.