Scientists Are Racing to Get Us Faster, Simpler Coronavirus Tests
Rapid and at-home tests could give results in minutes rather than days
Dr. John Tomaszewski has been working 16-hour days since the new coronavirus hit Buffalo, New York in mid-March. Though it’s a six-hour drive from the pandemic’s epicenter in New York City, Buffalo and the surrounding county has experienced a troubling surge in infections, racking up more than 1,700 cases and 101 deaths as of April 14.
As head of the laboratory at Kaleida Health, a nonprofit network of hospitals, Tomaszewski has been running coronavirus diagnostic tests nonstop. Even so, his efforts haven’t been nearly enough for the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, which is home to around 1.1 million people. With equipment donated from the University at Buffalo, where he is a professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, he has increased the number of tests his lab can run per day from 90 to about 300. He is hoping to double or triple that capacity soon, but he worries that will still fall short.
“We’re nowhere near the amount of testing you’d want to do in our region,” he says. Ideally, he’d like to be able to do at least 1,000 tests a day.
Labs across the country, much like Tomaszweski’s, not only need more tests but faster ones in order to learn the true magnitude of the pandemic. The United States can now run hundreds of thousands tests a week, but it’s still not enough to keep up with demand. In the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment, the fight against coronavirus is likely to drag on for months, and possibly into 2022.
New types of tests being developed at lightning speed could radically transform how we track Covid-19’s progression and every future disease outbreak from here on out. What has been a slow and tedious process for diagnosing infectious disease could become rapid and decentralized with new technology.
Scientists are racing to develop new coronavirus tests that could be done much faster and with less equipment. More than 300 test developers are planning to submit requests to the Food and Drug Administration to get emergency use authorization for their tests, according to FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. Some of these tests could be…