New reports indicate that researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19.
According to The Guardian, U.S. military scientists have developed a new coronavirus test with the ability to detect the virus in infected patients before they are capable of spreading the illness to others.
The new test originates from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is typically focused on identifying biological and chemical warfare capabilities. In recent weeks, however, the agency has been repurposed with promising results.
Possibly available this month
As reports explain, the capabilities will potentially allow medical professionals to detect COVID-19 within the first 24 hours of infection. Not only is that about four days faster than current testing, but it is also within the time window before which the virus can be spread from one person to another.
This type of testing reportedly works by providing an analysis of a person’s body to determine whether any changes are underway to fight the virus. Stuart Sealfon, the professor leading the research team, describes this method as significantly different from tests already available.
“Because the immune response to infection develops immediately after infection, a COVID signature is expected to provide more sensitive COVID infection diagnosis earlier,” he explained.
Before the test can be implemented, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must provide necessary approval.
That process is expected to begin next week with a request for emergency-use approval. If successful, the tests could be available by the end of the month.
“It’s a simple tweak”
Dr. Eric Van Gieson, another researcher on the DARPA team, said the new process can be administered using the same machines being used for current COVID-19 tests.
“It’s a simple tweak,” he said. “The infrastructure is already there.”
Experts say the test “would open up the possibility of isolating pre-infectious cases and closing down transmission chains” as well as “dramatically reduce quarantine periods for people exposed” to the virus, as reported by The Guardian.
According to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, there had been more than 3.4 million confirmed cases worldwide resulting in about 242,000 deaths as of Saturday.
As confirmed cases and associated death toll begin to level off, however, a new tool in the fight against the coronavirus has the potential to be — in the words of Dr. Brad Ringeisen of DARPA’s biological technologies office — “absolutely a game-changer.”