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 Dr. Laura Lamb led a team of Beaumont Health researchers with Dr. Michael Chancellor that recently developed a rapid COVID-19 detection test.

Dr. Laura Lamb led a team of Beaumont Health researchers with Dr. Michael Chancellor that recently developed a rapid COVID-19 detection test.

Photo provided by Beaumont Health

Beaumont researchers develop 45-minute COVID-19 test

Next steps are FDA testing and securing funding

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published July 6, 2020


ROYAL OAK — Researchers at the Aikens Research Center at Beaumont Research Institute have developed a new test that can detect the presence of COVID-19 via a urine, blood, saliva or mouth-swab sample in under an hour.

Securing Food and Drug Administration approval and corporate sponsorships to fund development is the next phase of the journey. The goal is to provide an easier, quicker, cheaper and more widely available testing option.

Results from the tests currently available take 24 hours or more to process and require highly trained laboratory technicians and expensive machinery at hospitals and clinics.

Dr. Laura Lamb, who led the research team with Dr. Michael Chancellor, said the timeline for when the new tests will be available depends on how quickly the FDA grants approval and figuring out logistics to provide the tests.

“It’s very difficult for me to estimate a cost, but I would estimate (it would cost) $3-$5 million,” Lamb said. “Because this is an existing test, we are optimistic (that) with the right resources, it could be ready for widespread use within a month or so.”

She said the existing test, while highly sensitive, requires a lot of steps, and the new test uses similar methodology but is quick and can be set up anywhere.

Once researchers figure out how to take the laboratory test and make it user-friendly, Lamb said, it could be used for screening at points of risk, including nursing homes, long-term care facilities, cruise ships, naval ships, schools, prisons, and by large employers such as warehouses or meatpacking plants.

The new test adds the patient’s sample to a test tube filled with molecular reagents, heats the test tube at 55 degrees Celsius, or 131 degrees Fahrenheit, and exposes it to ultraviolet light. If the test tube glows, there is COVID-19 present in the sample. The process takes 30 to 45 minutes.

The new test simply offers a yes or no answer, unlike the existing test, which can tell how much of the virus is present in the sample, but researchers say it is highly accurate.

“Sometimes, you just need to know, and maybe this could be used if you have a positive result to get (the more technical test),” Lamb said. “This is a technique that has been used in the food industry for a long time. It was developed by a Japanese group. We thought it could be applied to testing viruses in human samples, and it worked out.”

Lamb and Chancellor used technology they developed for a rapid Zika virus detection test approximately three years ago to develop the rapid COVID-19 virus detection test. Lamb said the original test took several years to develop, but the COVID-19 test took just months.

“This just shows you how working in one area can jumpstart research in another,” Chancellor said in a statement.

According to a Beaumont Health press release, more than 10,000 scientists from around the world have already downloaded the Beaumont research team article. Their study recently appeared in the peer-reviewed medical journal PLOS ONE, and they are sharing their work and collaborating with researchers from around the world via video conference.

“This is definitely a team effort,” Lamb said. “We worked with wonderful people to get this test done.”