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New coronavirus test reduces diagnosis time to 2.5 hours


Robert Bosch GmbH became the latest company to roll out a Covid-19 test, saying it can diagnose in less than 2.5 hours and help efforts to fight the outbreak.

The new test uses the Vivalytic molecular diagnostics platform made by Bosch’s health-care division. The device is already used in hospitals, laboratories, and medical practices to identify a range of bacterial and viral diseases including influenza and pneumonia. It will be available in Germany in April and sold in international markets, Bosch said.

“Infected patients can be identified and isolated faster,” Bosch Chief Executive Officer Volkmar Denner said Thursday in a statement. To develop the test, Bosch teamed up with Northern Irish medical-equipment maker Randox Laboratories Ltd., its partner on Vivalytic.

The ability to detect Covid-19 is key to stemming its spread. In countries like Germany and South Korea, testing was robust early on, potentially keeping fatality rates low, while a lack of testing in parts of Italy and the U.S. helped fuel the disease’s explosive growth.

While people still have to wait several days for results in many places, more companies are offering faster tests. Roche Holding AG’s high-speed, high-volume test can spew out more than 4,000 results a day, for example. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted more than a dozen emergency use approvals for Covid-19 tests from companies including Quest Diagnostics Inc. and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc.

All of these offerings are so-called molecular diagnostic tests, which have confirmed the more than 470,000 cases known globally. They are the gold standard for diagnosing infections by looking for nucleic acids of the virus in people’s samples.

While highly accurate, they also require time, experienced technicians and materials — including swabs — that are in short supply. Governments have been trying to limit the people who get tested to those deemed most at risk for complications.

Bosch said its rapid test can be performed entirely at the point of care. It was developed in six weeks and can diagnose 10 respiratory pathogens simultaneously, with an accuracy rate of more than 95%, according to the manufacturer.

Scientists are simultaneously assessing the reliability of blood-based tests that could turbocharge countries’ ability to diagnose people. These kits, which look for antibodies against the virus behind the pandemic, are less reliable than the molecular tests but cheaper and easier to make and distribute.