A Turkish firm based in the Aegean province of İzmir has developed a COVID-19 testing kit that can yield results within five minutes, with plans to mass produce the tests already underway to help the country contain the outbreak.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday, Türklab General Manager Kartal Yağlıdere said the company has been producing test kits for various diseases for the past 25 years and decided to put their expertise to work to help the country in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
Yağlıdere said the project was backed by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) and explained that the tests rely on detecting the antibodies produced by COVID-19 patients. The company aims to produce 3 million units per month.
“Our goal is to finish the project within six months. We will work 24 hours, seven days a week if needed. We already have the expertise needed, since we have been producing test kits for the past 25 years – so our infrastructure is up to the task. We hope to finish the project by reaching our mass production goal, which is 3 million COVID-19 tests per month,” Yağlıdere said.
The company had begun taking orders from companies across the world before even reaching its mass production goals, he said, adding that the Türklab's well-established sales network helped promote the test kit as Türklab exported their other tests to 76 countries.
“We told our customers that the kit was still in development. But we still had orders from countries like the U.K. and Germany because they trust our company’s history. Some of them even made down payments. We got paid before even putting the product on the table. We see this as a show of trust in our firm’s expertise on the field,” he said.
Explaining the differences between the new kit and others currently on the market, Türklab Sales and Business Development Manager Berna Demirkaya said their new test relies on the “immunofiltration” method to diagnose patients and are 100 times more sensitive.
“Ours is a much more reliable product than those referred to as rapid tests. Rapid tests are the most commonly used ones right now, yielding results within 15 minutes. Ours give out results within five minutes. And you don’t need any other equipment or trained personnel to read the results. The Turkish Health Ministry uses these PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests, which require trained personnel and well-equipped laboratories and so are not an effective method for scanning the whole population. But ours is,” Demirkaya said.
Testing is critical to control the coronavirus and eventually ease the restrictions that have halted daily life for millions across the world.
Currently, almost all testing in hospitals and clinics uses the genetic testing method to help doctors detect and treat people with active COVID-19.
Genetic testing is the most common method for detecting active COVID-19 infections and making a diagnosis. The process requires several steps and high-tech testing equipment to detect tiny traces of the virus that causes COVID-19.
First, the doctor or nurse gathers samples from a patient’s nose or throat using swabs. The sample is developed through a process called a polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, which is used to boost any traces of virus until they are detectable.
The same process has long been used to diagnose viruses such as HIV and hepatitis.
There are caveats to these types of tests, however. Someone can test negative one day and then positive the next. Much depends on the level of the virus and whether the swab picked up enough of it to make a good sample.
With severe test shortages affecting governments across the world, severe prerequisites have been placed on who is eligible to get tested, often requiring a potential patient to have come into contact with another confirmed patient.
Most countries, including Turkey, have relaxed those requirements since then, as tests have become more accessible and production rates have increased. Turkey’s Health Ministry last month ordered anyone with a cough or fever to be tested for COVID-19, regardless of any prior contact with a confirmed patient.