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Coronavirus

Team Japan develops 10-minute coronavirus test

Trials underway for system from Nagasaki University and Canon unit

Expanding testing capacity has been a challenge as countries fight against the coronavirus.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese researchers have developed a test kit for the novel coronavirus that provides results within 10 minutes -- far faster than standard testing methods.

Nagasaki University teamed up with Canon subsidiary Canon Medical Systems and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases to develop the device. The school has begun clinical testing in Nagasaki Prefecture, which reported its first COVID-19 case on Saturday.

The test kit is portable and weighs only 2.4 kg. (Photo courtesy of Canon Medical Systems)

The system takes a sample swabbed from a patient's nose or throat, makes many copies of any genetic material from the virus that might be present, and uses fluorescent dye to make it visible to scientists. This kit requires just 10 minutes to copy the viral material to a detectable level, compared with the more than 4 hours needed for standard polymerase chain-reaction tests. 

Including the time needed to prepare samples, the whole process takes just 40 minutes. One unit can check nearly 700 samples a day if it runs around the clock.

The system is portable, weighing only about 2.4 kg. Canon Medical Systems is preparing to start production. "We can provide one unit to each prefecture in a few months," said a company representative.

Nagasaki University plans to distribute the kits to university hospitals and other medical institutions.

The test was developed as part of a project run by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development. This research team previously created and commercialized diagnostic tests for Ebola and Zika viruses. 

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