Not just positive or negative, but also how much. The new test from A. Menarini Diagnostics to detect the presence of antigens can not only determine in just 12 minutes whether a patient is positive for COVID-19, but it also provides an indication of the viral load, allowing the most infectious and most at-risk patients to be identified immediately.
These tests are unlike molecular biology tests because, although they also use nasopharyngeal swabs to take the sample, antigen tests do not search for the genetic material of the virus. Instead, they check for the presence of antigens and, therefore, for potential infection by searching for specific viral proteins. They do this through instruments which are easy to transport and use, quicker and cheaper and with equally reliable results. One such instrument is the AFIAS Point-of-Care platform distributed by A. Menarini Diagnostics in Italy and other European countries. This device can be used in decentralised settings not directly connected to the analysis laboratory, such as emergency rooms, airports, or other situations where time or patient convenience matter.
Two models are currently available: AFIAS 1, which can handle one test at a time, and AFIAS 6, which allows 6 samples to be examined at the same time. Moreover, the same platform can also be used to perform serological antibody tests, detecting the presence and measuring the quantity of IgM and IgG antibodies in a patient’s blood sample. Using AFIAS 6, for example, three patients can have both serological antibody and antigen tests done at the same time, getting their results in just 12 minutes.
“It is vitally important to provide reliable tests allowing large-scale screening and the rapid detection of positive cases in order to contain the spread of COVID-19”, states Fabio Piazzalunga, Global Head of A. Menarini Diagnostics. “Ultimately, our lives and economies will be increasingly reliant on the availability and efficiency of these diagnostic tools”.
How the AFIAS platform works to detect the COVID-19 antigen:
The healthcare worker takes a sample from the patient using a nasopharyngeal swab and, following a series of steps, inserts it into the AFIAS platform. If the sample is infected, the platform will detect the presence of the antigen through a biochemical reaction which produces a fluorescent signal. This signal is highly sensitive, allowing not only detection of the virus if it is present, but also providing the operator with an indication of the patient’s viral load expressed numerically. Essentially, the brighter the fluorescence, the higher the viral load will be.
The same AFIAS instrument also has a different application, which allows it to be used for serological antibody tests to measure the quantity of IgM and IgG antibodies in the patient’s blood. The process is the same, with the only variation being the type of sample being analysed. In this case, the sample is taken through a finger prick (capillary blood collection) or through venous blood collection.
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