Scientists at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), supported by the Foundation of Support for Research of São Paulo States (FAPESP), have developed two new methods of identifying COVID-19 cases with a potential to speed up mass testing in Brazil.
The two tests detect the virus through saliva and are highly sensitive, as is gold standard RT-PCR, and cost at least a third of the price of a RT-PCR test, which is currently priced at $60 to $90.
According to Research Coordinator Ronaldo Censi Faria, the first test developed by is team uses a device with the same working principle of a glucose monitor. The result comes out quickly, is reliable, and can be sent through a cell phone. “The result is given in some 30 to 60 minutes, but the reliability is the same as that of the RT-PCR, so it’s different from [the reliability] of quick tests, and has a very low cost,” the researcher declared.
Ronaldo Censi went on to say that this method enables the detection of other diseases, or such conditions as Alzheimer’s, leishmaniasis, cancer, and leprosy.
In another test developed by his team, scientists use a platform already widely known by laboratories, known as Elisa, which reads enzymes and can analyze 96 saliva samples every 30 minutes. “You can evaluate a new set of samples after half an hour. Every 30 minutes you can analyze 96 samples, so you can run thousands of tests in one day,” Censi said.
Also according to researchers, as it uses technology already known by laboratories, this kind of test can be quickly adopted by companies interested and tackle two bottlenecks in the country’s mass testing drive: testing costs and the diagnosis time frame.