SINGAPORE – Fast and Accurate Coronavirus Tests have become a reality, according to the genetic testing company Prenetics.
The Hong Kong-based company told CNBC last week that the accuracy of its rapid coronavirus tests was comparable to the “gold standard” of PCR testing.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been widely used to detect coronavirus infections since the beginning of the pandemic. They are accurate at diagnosing patients, but it takes hours for results to return.
Prenetics tests, developed by researchers at Oxford University using a loop-mediated isothermal amplification technique, provide results in 30 minutes.
Several companies have published rapid tests. However, most of them are antigen tests, which detect proteins on the surface of the virus. PCR tests and Prenetics tests detect genetic material from the virus and are more accurate.
“We actually believe it’s definitely a game changer,” said Danny Yeung, CEO and co-founder of Prenetics.
“We can do tests without a laboratory … the results are much faster,” he told CNBC “Street Signs Asia” on Friday.
A medical worker collects a throat swab from a resident of a testing center in Hong Kong, China on September 9, 2020.
Zhang Wei | China News Service | Getty Images
He added that kits cost between $ 15 and $ 20 before taking into account the labor cost of running the test. The tests are available at Heathrow Airport in London and are reported to cost £ 80 ($ 103.48). This is less than the cost of many UK private PCR tests.
It is currently on trial at Hong Kong Airport and the company is in talks with other governments and airports.
PCR tests take a long time to process and are “very expensive” due to the laboratory equipment required. However, Yeung acknowledged that they are ideal. “PCR is always the gold standard.”
Still, he said Prenetics’ testing isn’t too far off target. “In terms of accuracy, it is comparable to the PCR standard and also much better than antigen tests.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Antigen tests give results in an hour or less, but sometimes give false negative results. That means a person with Covid-19 may test negative.
Yeung said antigen tests might fail to detect the virus in asymptomatic patients. “The challenge is that most of these people are asymptomatic when they travel or do population screening.”
He added that his company’s tests are “a really great solution” for airport control because of their speed and accuracy.
“I think this is a great test for point-of-care testing, for universities, for events, performances (and stadiums),” he said.