A team of researchers from Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) has recently developed a new Covid-19 rapid test kit, which enables physicians to provide timely treatment to high-risk patients.

The research team was led by NTHU’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering professor Cheng Chao-Min, and the rapid test was developed in collaboration with the Tri-Service General Hospital,

The prototype of the diagnostic test is currently being validated at various medical centres, and was submitted for an emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to Cheng, few Covid-19 patients initially develop only flu-like symptoms, but their condition could suddenly become severe within a few hours.

Currently, the prognosis of Covid-19 patients is primarily based on the presence of symptoms including difficulty breathing, and the current laboratory tests require one or two days to complete. A patient’s condition can rapidly deteriorate in the meantime.

The new rapid test kit will facilitate prognosis of Covid-19 severity in patients

The research team found that the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) concentration in the patient’s serum will play crucial role in prognosis of the disease, as the immune system of a person infected with the SARS-CoV-2 will immediately starts resisting it with an immune response.

The failure of immune system will result in the production of cytochrome in large amounts, leading to a ‘cytokine storm’, which causes death in most of the Covid-19 cases.

Quick measurement of IL-6 levels in serum would help identifying patients requiring immediate treatment with either endotracheal intubation or respirators.

The test is conducted by using a dropper to place a drop of serum containing high IL-6 concentration onto the white test strip.

Two distinct red lines will appear on the test strip within two minutes if the patient’s condition is about to become severe or only one red line will appear if the patient’s condition is mild.

In addition, the new rapid test can also be used to determine when a severe patient’s IL-6 concentration has dropped enough to be taken off the respirator.