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Coronavirus

Hitachi and Toshiba help boost coronavirus antigen test kit output

Tokyo-based Fujirebio expects to increase weekly production to 400,000 units

The electronics giants say they will assist a medical test kit producer double production of kits that can quickly detect novel coronavirus antigens.

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese electronics giants Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. said Friday they will assist medical test kit producer Fujirebio Inc. in doubling production of kits that can quickly detect the novel coronavirus antigens.

The Tokyo-based Fujirebio, a unit of Miraca Holdings Inc., is expected to increase its output to 400,000 units of the antigen test kits per week by December, when a new production line becomes operational in Asahikawa in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido.

Fujirebio will install the new output line at a factory belonging to a Toshiba group firm in Asahikawa, while Hitachi will offer assistance in managing the line and related facilities, the three companies said.

Fujirebio is currently producing 200,000 kits a week at its factory in Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture in western Japan.

The company has decided to increase its production capability to brace for a possible second wave of virus infections in Japan, as "the outlook for the containment of the virus remains unclear," it said in a statement.

The Japanese government last month approved the company's antigen test kits, which can detect the virus in 15 to 30 minutes. That is considerably faster than the currently dominant polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests which require a few hours at least to produce a result.

In antigen tests, commonly used for testing flu, doctors insert swabs into a patient's nostril and get the result on site. The quick testing method is expected to be used to test patients who need immediate treatment.

However, the accuracy of antigen tests is considered to be lower than the PCR test, which involves amplifying small amounts of DNA sequences of the virus.

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