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Canadian company says its coronavirus test could enhance screening

An Edmonton-based company says its test can determine with certainty whether someone has contracted COVID-19. It said its system can also complete up to 20,000 tests every day.
An Edmonton-based company says its test can determine with certainty whether someone has contracted COVID-19. It said its system can also complete up to 20,000 tests every day. AP Photo file

A Canadian company is ready to release its new COVID-19 test which it says is more accurate and could see tens of thousands of samples tested in one day.

However, no province appears ready to invest in the system yet.

Bio-ID Diagnostics said it’s ready to release the COVID-Seq, which it claims is a more accurate and efficient way to test for the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: How rapid coronavirus testing could help Canada flatten the curve

The Edmonton-based company said rather than determining whether someone is presumed to be positive with COVID-19, its test can determine someone’s status with certainty.

“That also involves sequencing the DNA. So actually looking at the sequence of the DNA and that’s the part that makes it conclusive,” said Dr. Reno Pontarollo.

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According to Bio-ID, it has developed the first test that looks for detection and confirmation of the virus.

Current tests show whether someone is presumed to be positive or not.

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Their status isn’t confirmed until days later.

Click to play video 'Dr. Bonnie Henry on COVID-19 tests and  false-negative rates' Dr. Bonnie Henry on COVID-19 tests and false-negative rates
Dr. Bonnie Henry on COVID-19 tests and false-negative rates – Apr 17, 2020

Last week, B.C.’s chief medical health officer said that province’s test results could have up to 30 per cent false negatives depending on how far into symptoms a patient was when the test was done.

“You need to be at least 95 per cent specificity on this and sensitivity so your rate of false positives and false negatives are low,” Dr. Pontarollo said.

The test takes 24 hours and can be scaled so it could process up to 20,000 samples per day.

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Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe has set a target of conducting 1,500 tests every day.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan exploring antibody testing for the future

A press release from Bio-ID said, “the COVID-Seq has a verifiable genetic sequence avoiding false positives, and it detects a low concentration of the virus substantially reducing false negatives in asymptomatic individuals, a factor that is especially important when clearing employees for a safe return to work.”

On top of that, Bio-ID said the test can identify and monitor new strains of the virus and can test samples for other respiratory viruses like Influenza, Zika, West Nile and Dengue in the same test.

The company is working with the University of Saskatchewan’s school of public policy to receive Health Canada approval.

Executive-in-residence Jerome Konecsni said the system can work with equipment most labs already have in place.

READ MORE: Canadian company says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

He said it could even be used as a supplement to quicker tests like the Spartan Cube.

“It could be like a verification run for tests that are used right now that are quicker but aren’t always 100 per cent reliable,” he said. 

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The Saskatchewan health ministry and health authority said the province isn’t planning to order the system, but may in the future.