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Taiwan Developing 10-minute COVID-19 Test Using SARS Antibodies

Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) is planning on using SARS antibodies to develop a rapid test to detect the Wuhan coronavirus in just around 10 minutes.

Huey-Kang Sytwu (司徒惠康), vice president of the NHRI, was cited by the Liberty Times as saying that at present, the principle behind developing a rapid screening reagent is to detect the virus using antibodies, such as the case with influenza. He said this generally involves taking a swab from the nose, placing it in a vial containing viral transport media, and dripping the contents into the sample well for testing.

These sorts of tests generally take 10 to 15 minutes to yield a result and have an accuracy level of about 50 to 60 percent. Sytwu said that in 2003, the NHRI and the National Defense Medical Center used the SARS virus to produce antibodies in mice.

Recently, it was found that the antibodies to SARS have the same antigens as COVID-19. Scientists at the NHRI believe that SARS antibodies could be used to develop a new COVID-19 rapid screening test.

An application for use of the SARS virus for research was submitted to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) two or three weeks ago, and it is expected that the virus will be sent to the NHRI for testing in the near future.

Sytwu said that the preliminary results are expected within two or three weeks. If it is found that the SARS antibodies can detect COVID-19, it is expected that it will enable rapid screening for clinical examination and verification.

Sytwu cautioned that approval for the rapid test from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will take some time. He said it is difficult to estimate how long approval will take, but that "it should not take too long," according to the report.

Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that it currently takes nearly an entire day to yield the results of a COVID-19 test. According to Sytwu, testing for the virus currently takes a lot of time and effort; if a quick test can be successfully be developed, it will expedite the treatment process.

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