Once mass production starts, the UAE’s latest rapid coronavirus test using laser technology could be priced at Dh 100 per test, according to its developers.
QuantLase Imaging Lab, developers of the advanced testing equipment, announced on Thursday via a virtual press briefing session that it has run trails on 6,000 blood samples, supplied by the UAE government, and have achieved an 85 to 90 per cent accurate and four per cent false-positive results. The rapid blood test could identify carriers before they become infectious to others.
The recently developed testing equipment, named Al Ain 019, uses instant, laser-based Diffractive Phase Interferometry (DPI) technology to detect viral infections in a given blood sample in a matter of seconds. QuantLase Imaging Lab is the medical-research arm of the Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange-listed International Holdings Company, IHC.
The new technology was unveiled on May 19 and QuantLase hopes it would be mass manufactured in the UAE in a matter of months. “We have already identified a manufacturer in the UAE and we want to share this technology with the world,” said Abraham.
Commenting on the price of the test, once it is mass-produced, Peter Abraham, the executive director of International Holding Group said, “Testing could be priced at Dh 100 per test and it could go down to half, if not lower.”
The testing equipment is currently seeking approvals from relevant UAE government authorities and Abraham is confident to receive it in a matter of weeks. “I see no reason why we should not get it. It is non-invasive and test results are received immediately unlike nasal swabs which take several hours at least,” explained Abraham. Currently, Abraham said the testing equipment is at ’13 sites’.
‘Can detect any kind of viral infection’
Dr Pramod Kumar, head of research at the QuantLase explained the team has been studying the change in the cell structure of the virus-infected blood. “The test can tell a significant difference between healthy blood cell and unhealthy blood cells,” said Dr Kumar.
Abraham said, “The machine has the capability to detect any kind of viral infection in the blood, including the Covid-19 which is very specific in its outline.”
Al Ain 019 from Multiply on Vimeo.
How does the test work?
The blood sample is collected by pricking the patient’s fingertip with a lancet, similar to the sample collected for testing diabetes. Following which, the sample is then placed on a blood testing glass slide. The slide is then placed into a slot in the machine and laser beams are shot through the sample, which projects a pattern that is captured by a camera.
The subsequent images collected from the tests differentiate between healthy and unhealthy blood cells. Blood cells of a healthy person appear perfectly round under laser light. However, the ring is destroyed in unhealthy cells, giving it a scattered appearance.
This pattern is analysed by an algorithm which compares it with thousands of other samples to determine whether the person is healthy or sick.
Developers said the test is user-friendly, non-invasive and low-cost and hope it will be put to use not only in hospitals but also in public places like cinemas and shopping malls. “With a ‘little hands-on training,’ it can be used for in-house testing and monitoring as well. We believe it will be a game-changer in tackling the spread of the coronavirus,” said Kumar.