Chulalongkorn to launch 'game changer'
Chulalongkorn University's Covid-19 Emergency Operation Centre will launch a strip test on March 30 to ease the burden on overworked medical personnel as the number of coronavirus infections continues to rise.
Centre chief Narin Hiransuthikul said the centre is the only provider of the strip test for now, because it still has to gather information and submit it for approval by the Department of Medical Sciences and the Food and Drug Administration.
The strip test was developed by a team from the university's Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
"Once approved, the strips will be sold over the counter," he said.
Dr Narin is an expert in disease and epidemiology from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine.
Also the university's vice-president for strategy, planning and budgeting, he said patients will give blood via a prick to the fingertip.
That will be tested rather than the conventional method in which medical personnel collect throat and nasal swabs and send the specimens to laboratories for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
Dr Narin said the team has conducted more than 100 trials of the serology test with 95% accuracy.
"Only 5% falsely tested negative because they produced antibodies in response to viruses similar to Covid-19. We believe there are four to five times as many patients with the virus compared to the 1,045 [confirmed cases as of Thursday]. The kit will be a game changer," he said.
Dr Narin said while the strip test has not been designed to replace the PCR test, it will assist in screening patients at an early stage and ease the burden on medical personnel.
"As the outbreak intensifies, people have been flocking to hospitals for the PCR test, which is extending the waiting period to three to four days. For instance, Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital gathers around 1,000 specimens every day, which is putting medical staff at risk because they are in close contact with coughing patients, he said.
Prof Dr Narin added the university has procedures in place for those wanting to test for Covid-19.
"Patients will have to first register at http://covid19.thaitechstartup.org, fill in forms and then consult medical staff via a telemedicine link. So far, we are only allowing those who have panic attacks and those at risk to come to our centre.
"The strip test takes only five to 15 minutes. If they test positive, they are sent to our hospital immediately, while those who test negative are asked to return for another test in three days," he said.