A new test which predicts the severity of coronavirus infections within 10 minutes has been developed by a team from the Institut d’Investigació Sanitària de Balears, or IdISBa.
"It means we can make better use of health resources and prevent contagion or death by treating patients earlier and it can tell us whether they need to be hospitalised or if they can be cared for at home,” says Project Coordinator, Roberto de la Rica.
The test detects the protein interleukin 6 (IL-6) and the severity of the inflammatory process.
"We all have this protein which is normally at a level below 5, but if a patient has coronavirus it will be over 20 and if the infection is severe it soars to over 100.
Our immune system makes the protein when there is a major inflammatory process, so having this quantification is important for doctors making decisions,” says de la Rica.
Roberto de la Rica stressed that the test is very quick and simple.
“A blood or respiratory sample, or sputum is taken from the infected person and put on a sensitive paper which has been modified with reagents,” he explains. “A drop is placed on the paper and left to dry, then we apply another piece that contains gold nanoparticles which recognise the protein and generate a red colour. The intensity of the colour indicates the level of protein and infection and the results are available on a Mobile App that comes with the test,” says de la Rica.Marketing
It’s thought the test could be produced for around one euro and traded for around ten euros.
"It is designed to be used mainly by Primary Care Personnel because they're the ones who treat patients at home and decide whether they need to be hospitalised,” he says.
Health Centres already have other comparable methods, but they’re not as simple or as fast as this test.
A prototype has already been completed and tested and companies are being contacted to get it on the market.
In a few weeks the first results of the tests will be published in a specialist Scientific Journal.
“I think we are the first to develop something like this. I know that a more sophisticated system is working in the US, but ours is simple, fast and can be done with a mobile phone and I am 99% sure that we are the first and only ones with a test like this,” claims de la Rica.
Earlier this year the IdISBa team was developing tests to detect bacteria or proteins related to infections or sepsis, and started developing a rapid prognosis test when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
"The whole team concentrated on getting a test like this one,” says de la Rica, “and we’ve done it in 5 months with the collaboration of the Covid biobank and the Immunology Department.”