Scientists have developed a new low-cost nasal swab test which can accurately diagnose the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 in just 20 minutes. The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology, show the test called N1-STOP-LAMP, is 100 per cent accurate in diagnosing samples containing SARS-CoV-2 at high loads.
The rapid molecular test is highly accurate and easy to use, making it a prime candidate for use in settings with limited testing capabilities, according to the researchers.
The method involves using a small portable machine, which can reliably detect SARS-CoV-2 from just one nasal swab, they said.
"In the race to control the COVID-19 pandemic, access to rapid, precision diagnostics is key," said Tim Stinear, a professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
"We have developed an alternative COVID-19 molecular test that can be readily deployed in settings where access to standard laboratory testing is limited or where ultra-rapid result turnaround times are needed," Stinear said.
This new test uses only one tube and involves only a single step, making it more efficient and lower cost than many of the current tests for SARS-CoV-2.
The N1-STOP-LAMP method was found to be 100 per cent accurate and correctly identified 87 per cent of tests as positive when used to assess 157 confirmed-positive samples.
The results were fast, with an average time-to-positive of 14 minutes for 93 of those clinical samples.
"We see this kind of technology having benefit in settings liked aged care facilities, or overseas laboratories with limited resources and equipment," Stinear said.
"The test requires a small shoebox-sized machine, as well as reagents, but everything is portable," he said.
The researchers noted that STOP-LAMP is what is referred to as a 'near care' test, and is not intended to replace the current gold standard PCR testing.
It's a robust diagnostic test for the specific and rapid detection of COVID-19, but it's important to note that it trades some detection sensitivity for speed and ease-of-use, they said.