Abbott Laboratories
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Abbot Laboratories Announces 5-Minute COVID-19 Test

March 30, 2020
The test runs on a widely-available portable platform commonly used by clinics to identify influenza or strep throat.

Testing patients for the novel coronavirus COVID-19 might become significantly easier in coming weeks, thanks to a new test developed by Abbott Laboratories. According to the Illinois-based medical device company, the new test can return a positive result in as little as five minutes and a negative result in 13 minutes. The FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the test on March 27.

The accessibility of the new test may be even more consequential than its speed. The platform the test runs on, Abbott’s ID Now device, is a portable, toaster-sized device that weighs less than 6 pounds. There are roughly 18,000 of the test units in circulation. According to Abbott, the platform is “the most widely available molecular point-of-care testing platform” in the country, owing to their ordinary use in testing more common infections like influenza or strep throat

 “The COVID-19 pandemic will be fought on multiple fronts, and a portable molecular test that offers results in minutes adds to the broad range of diagnostic solutions needed to combat this virus,” said Abbott CEO Robert Ford. He also said the ubiquity of the testing device will allow healthcare providers to test for the virus outside of hospitals and in “outbreak hotspots.”

Abbott says its next move is to dramatically ramp up production of the tests over the coming weeks. The company said on March 27 that it would ramp up production to deliver 50,000 COVID-19 tests per day. Abbott has another test for coronavirus which runs on its m2000 RealTime system, and between the two systems the company estimates it will be able to produce about 5 million tests a month.

The latest test developed by Abbott works by identifying the presence of the virus’s RNA—a kind of genetic material—in a nasal swab. That’s one of two common methods for testing the virus, the other of which identifies the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. Antibodies are helpful proteins produced by the body to fight specific infections, which means that while antibody tests can determine whether a patient has contacted COVID-19, they don’t determine whether or not the virus is still present.

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