Nov 19, 2021 - Health

New COVID test offers quick PCR-quality results at home

Detect test
The Detect COVID-19 test. Image: Detect, Inc.

A new COVID-19 molecular test delivers PCR-quality results to users at home in one hour.

The big picture: The new test is a sign of the innovation COVID has sparked in the home diagnostics industry, bringing the power of the lab into the home.

How it works: The new test from Detect, a Connecticut-based health tech company, "takes the accuracy of a PCR test in the lab and puts it in a form factor that makes it easy for anyone to use and inexpensive enough for anyone to afford," says Eric Kauderer-Abrams, Detect's chief technology officer.

  • Users take a swab sample from each nostril, which is then mixed with freeze-dried chemical reagents contained in the cap of a small plastic tube.
  • After being placed in the reusable Detect hub, the test searches for and amplifies the genetic code of any SARS-CoV-2 virus in the sample, similar to the way a PCR test works in a professional lab.
  • After an hour, the liquid-fueled tube is placed in a reader containing a lateral flow strip, with positive or negative results expressed with a single line, like an at-home pregnancy test, with a connected app that guides the process and can be used to verify and share results.

By the numbers: The Detect test is 97.3% accurate, on par with a PCR lab test and better than existing rapid at-home antigen tests that look for the immune response to infection.

  • Detect's test earned an emergency use authorization from the FDA late last month, and the company recently received an $8.1 million contract from the NIH's Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Initiative to scale up manufacturing at its Connecticut location.

Between the lines: The hub is reusable and reagents can be reprogrammed to search for other viruses. The company's long-term vision "is that you'll be able to get a flu test or a COVID test or whatever you need, at home," says Owen Kaye-Kauderer, Detect's chief business officer.

The catch: With a retail price of $49 per test — not including the $39 reusable hub — the Detect test is still much more expensive than rapid antigen tests that are less accurate but generally reliable when it comes to identifying people when they are actively contagious.

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