The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency approval yesterday for a new coronavirus (COVID-19) test kit made by US company Cepheid Inc.. The test can provide results in a matter of hours, instead of days.
The new tool is called the Cepheid Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test and will be available in the United States end of March, 2020. The availability in South Africa is not known, yet.
Cepheid Inc., which is based in California, claims they can revert back positive or negative results in 45 minutes.
We understand the following is the procedure: A technician collects the patient's sample with a swab. That sample is then mixed in a tube. It is then transferred with a one-time pipette into the Cepheid cartridge. This cartridge contains the testing reagents. The cartridge is then placed into what is called the GeneXpert machine which determines if the patient has been infected or not. According to Cepheid Inc., there are more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert systems around the world.
How many GeneXpert systems are available in South Africa is unknown to the author at the time of writing this article.
Cepheid President Warren Kocmond has stated "Our automated systems do not require users to have specialty training to perform testing -- they are capable of running 24/7, with many systems already doing so today,".
In our humble opinion, this would make the system ideal for South Africa.