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Two new SARS diagnostic tests pending approval from DOH

Two leading universities announced yesterday they have developed two diagnostic test strips for severe acute respiratory syndrome, which are both 95 percent accurate.

Both need just a drop of blood to find out the presence of the SARS virus.

The National Taiwan University College of Medicine (NTUCM) and its collaborator Tyson Bioresearch Inc. unveiled a test strip for SARS based on immunochromatographic assay.

The technique can be used to detect antibodies against the coronavirus inside patients for 10 to 21 days after they have developed SARS symptoms.

The test was developed after NTUCM researchers completed the DNA sequencing of the coronavirus that causes SARS.

A drop of blood is placed on the test pad and the result will be known between 10 to 15 minutes. The pad will show two lines if the SARS virus is found. The test boasts a 95 percent accuracy rate on initial clinical trials, according to the NTUCM.

Tyson added this diagnostic method does not require additional lab analysis and can be used to promptly identify SARS virus carriers at hospitals.

The company plans to manufacture 5,000 test pads in one week to be distributed by the Center for Disease Control among major medical centers. The retail price of the test strip is estimated at NT$500.

Another easy-to-use test was jointly developed by the Hsinchu-based National Chiao Tung University’s Research Institute of Biomedical Engineering and the Magellan biotech company.

The test is also conducted via a drop of blood from the affected and the process takes about 15 minutes, according to Magellan.

Simon J.T. Mao, director of the Research Institute of Biomedical Engineering, explained that the test can be used to detect the immunoglobulin which is generated by the SARS patient to fend off the invading virus.

The test strip, which is produced with nanotechnology, will show reddish spots if the virus is present.

Mao said the test is convenient to take at home and it should also help reduce medical costs and public panic surrounding the epidemic by a timely screening of SARS patients.

Currently, the most popular SARS diagnostic technique is polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which detects the virus via specimens collected from patients’ blood or respiratory system.

It takes between two to four hours to complete the testing.

Magellan said the test is 95 percent accurate based on over 500 trials. And more clinical trials are scheduled at hospitals in the near future. The test pad will be priced at around NT$300.

Both products are pending approval from the Department of Health.

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