A major problem the United States has confronted in tracking and controlling the coronavirus known as COVID-19 has been the shortage of test kits and the long wait for results, since many of the diagnostic tests require samples to be shipped to laboratories for evaluation.
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Gold is helping to solve this problem. The precious metal is a key component in rapid response tests that can identify individuals who are infected with COVID-19. The tests, Lateral Flow Assays (LFAs), are simple diagnostic tools that utilize tiny spherical particles of gold as indicators and can deliver results within 15 minutes. A North Carolina company, BioMedomics, has developed an LFA that identifies the presence of antibody biomarkers from the immune system’s response to COVID-19 rather than searching for the virus itself. The test’s efficacy is documented in a new article in the Journal of Medical Virology.
LFAs are widely used to test for other life-threatening illnesses, notably malaria. The World Health Organization estimates more than 400 million malarial LFAs were sold in 2018. Gold particles travel down the test strip with a patient’s drop of blood, enabling the strip to change color to a deep purple if malaria is present.
BioMedomics says it has sold more than half a million COVID-19 test kits to China and it is also distributing them in South Korea, Japan, and Italy, after receiving certification in Europe. The company in March submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration to market the test kits in the United States and was hoping for swift approval.
“Because there is no medicine or vaccine, the best way to combat this infection is isolation. A lot of people don’t have symptoms. Because of that, quick diagnostics are very important,” BioMedomics CEO Frank Wang told WRAL Tech Wire.
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