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Coronavirus

Faster coronavirus test submitted for approval in Japan

Antigen kit from Miraca unit can produce results in under an hour

A medical worker in Tokyo conducts a simulation for a drive-through PCR test for coronavirus disease. Antigen tests also use samples taken with a swab.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- A unit of Japanese medical diagnostics company Miraca Holdings has applied for government approval of a coronavirus testing kit that can produce results much faster than current mainstay tests.

Tokyo-based Fujirebio filed the application for the antigen test on Monday, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

The ministry will work quickly to determine its effectiveness, a ministry representative said.

Japan mainly uses polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests to screen for the virus that causes COVID-19. This can take hours. Antigen tests can produce results in less than an hour, though critics say they are less accurate.

Antigen tests detect proteins unique to a virus. Antibody tests, on the other hand, look for antibodies produced by the immune system to combat the virus. While these can be conducted quickly as well, patients in their early stages tend not to have enough antibodies.

"We are not currently considering using antibody tests for diagnosing," a health ministry representative said.

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