NTHU Research Team Develops a Rapid Test Kit for Potential Severe Covid-19 Cases

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HSINCHU, July 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Professor Cheng Chao-Min of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at National Tsing Hua University has recently developed a new covid-19 rapid test kit which allows the physician to provide timely treatment to high-risk patients, thereby making more efficient use of such critical equipment as respirators.

Developed in collaboration with the Tri-Service General Hospital, the prototype is currently under the clinical validations at a number of medical centers, and Cheng has applied for an emergency use authorization of US Food and Drug Administration.

Rapid testing saves lives

According to Cheng, some covid-19 patients initially have only flu-like symptoms, but within a few hours the condition could suddenly become severe. At present, the prognosis of covid-19 patients is mainly based on the presence of such symptoms as dyspnea (difficulty breathing), and the laboratory tests currently available require at least one or two days to complete, during which time a patient's condition can rapidly deteriorate.

According to Cheng, the key to prognosis is the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentration in the patient's serum; soon after infection with the SARS-CoV-2 , the person's immune system begins to resist it, failing which, the immune system collapses, causing the production of a large amount of cytochrome, resulting in a "cytokine storm," which is the actual cause of death in many covid-19 cases. Some covid-19 patients enter the hospital in relatively good health, but their condition could soon deteriorates. Thus the need to measure the IL-6 level in serum so as to quickly determine which patients require immediate treatment with either the endotracheal intubation or the respirator.

On the front-lines in the battle against covid-19

Cheng has demonstrated how the test is conducted by using a dropper to place a drop of serum containing high IL-6 concentration onto the white test strip about the size a person's finger; within two minutes two distinct red lines appear on the test strip, indicating that the patient's condition will soon become severe. If only one red line appears, it indicates that the patient's condition is mild.

A lack of respirators has significantly increased the covid-19 death rate in both the United States and Italy, hence the need to rapidly assess the severity of the patient's condition so that those at highest risk can be put on a respirator and administered anti-IL-6 medication as soon as possible; Cheng's test can also be used to quickly determine when a severe patient's IL-6 concentration has dropped enough to be taken off the respirator.

Cheng expects the test strip developed by his research team to make a major contribution to the worldwide effort to improve medical treatment for covid-19.

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SOURCE National Tsing Hua University

- 13 Jul 2020
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