Rapid screening test being developed in Halifax to quickly detect COVID-19

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A new rapid screening test being developed in Halifax could help detect COVID-19 within minutes.

Researchers at Sona Nanotech Inc. are working around the clock to develop the lateral flow tests, which see samples taken from the mouth or nose.

Dr. Darren Rowles, president and CEO of Sona Nanotech Inc., says it would then work similar to a pregnancy test, producing results in five to 15 minutes.

“You don’t have to wait four, six, 10, 24 hours in some cases for a result,” said Rowles.

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Lateral flow tests are not as sensitive as the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention-approved molecular tests. But Rowles says Sona’s nanorod technology has been able to bring the sensitivity level down even further.

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“On some occasions to even peak at ground-levels, which is down to levels of molecular tests,” he said.

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Once tested, patients will still need to have their results confirmed. But it’s hoped the lateral flow tests will act as a screening tool to quickly determine if someone is “potentially positive” for coronavirus or “potentially negative.”

“By triaging people in that way, that’s a very, very good and established method to be able to help contain, [prevent] any spread of future contamination,” said Rowles.

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It will not only give patients peace of mind, but also help health care professionals.

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“If you’re a frontline worker and you have the ability to be able to deploy that technology, I think that certainly takes a lot of pressure off you,” added Rowles.

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As the COVID-19 outbreak intensifies, Rowles describes the global scientific community as having a “collaborative culture” that is helping Sona expedite development.

“We recently signed a collaboration agreement with a team in GE, and their lab in Germany is poised to receive materials from us and start a program of work that will cut our workload here by a good third,” said Rowles.

Rowles says discussions are already underway with the FDA to potentially fast-track authorization once these tests are ready for market.

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