A new COVID-19 test from the biotechnology company Abbott can return results in just 5 minutes — and it can be run in a doctor’s office or urgent care clinic. The test was approved for emergency use in the USA by the Food and Drug Administration last night.
The test uses the company’s small, portable ID NOW platform, and doesn’t have to be sent to a central lab for analysis. Alternatively, it can be done directly in a clinic or urgent care clinic, which could cut down on the days-long wait time some patients are facing to get the results. Doctors could take a swab from a patient’s nose or throat and insert it directly into the machine and have results within 15 minutes.
“With rapid testing on ID NOW, healthcare providers can perform molecular point-of-care testing outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots,” said Robert B. Ford, president, and chief operating officer of Abbott, in a press release.
This is the second point-of-care test for COVID-19 approved by the FDA. The first was from the Cephid, which takes 45 minutes. Cephid’s test is primarily intended for emergency rooms and hospitals, not for doctors’ offices or urgent care clinics.
Tests that can give doctors quick results are critical during disease outbreaks because it can help them to know how much protective equipment they need to wear when they’re interacting with a patient, wherein a hospital to send them, and what sort of care to provide. Tests done in a doctor’s or urgent care clinic can also help diagnose patients with mild cases of COVID-19, and help to stop them from unknowingly spreading the virus.
Abbott says it plans to start shipping 50,000 ID NOW COVID-19 tests a day starting next week.
The US is struggling to ramp up testing for the coronavirus, which is one of the reasons the public health system wasn’t able to contain the virus before the numbers started to jump. Commercial and state labs are now running upwards of 100,000 tests per day, but the US is still running fewer tests per capita than many other countries. President Donald Trump promised that there would be easy to access drive-through testing sites in parking lots across the country, but there aren’t enough tests available to put that type of system in place.
There are more cases of COVID-19 in the USA than in any other country in the world.