Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as 5 minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting.
The medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected in as little as five minutes when it’s present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said.
The U.S. has struggled to supply enough tests to detect the coronavirus, even as the outbreak threatens to overwhelm hospitals in New York, California, Washington and other regions. After initially restricting testing to high-risk people, and problems with a test designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. regulators have rushed out diagnostics made by the world’s leading commercial-testing companies.
The technology builds on Illinois-based Abbott’s ID Now platform, the most common point-of-care test currently available in the U.S., with more than 18,000 units spread across the country. It is widely used to detect influenza, strep throat and respiratory syncytial virus, a common bug that causes cold-like symptoms.