Auto supplier Robert Bosch GmbH said its health care affiliate developed a test that can diagnose COVID-19 in less than 2.5 hours and might help efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
“Infected patients can be identified and isolated faster,” Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner said Thursday in a statement. Patients typically must wait one or two days for test results.
The ability to test for COVID-19 is seen as a key variable in restricting its spread. Diagnosis has proliferated in some countries like Germany and South Korea, while lagging behind in others including Italy and parts of the U.S.
The new test uses the medical diagnostics platform made by the health care division of Bosch, the world's largest auto supplier by sales. The device is already used in hospitals, laboratories and medical practices to diagnose a range of bacterial and viral diseases including influenza and pneumonia.
The new COVID-19 test will be available in Germany in April and be sold in international markets. Bosch teamed up with Northern Irish medical equipment maker Randox Laboratories Ltd., its partner on Vivalytic, for its development.
Molecular diagnostic tests are the gold standard, used to determine whether someone is currently infected. The tests, which have confirmed the more than 470,000 cases known globally, look for nucleic acids of the virus in people’s samples.
While highly accurate, they also require time, experienced technicians and supplies -- including swabs -- that are in short supply. Governments have been trying to limit the number of people who get the tests 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 of more than 95 percent, according to the manufacturer.
Scientists are simultaneously testing the reliability of blood-based tests that could turbocharge countries’ ability to test people. These tests, which look for antibodies against the virus behind the pandemic, are less reliable than the molecular tests but are also cheaper and easier to make and distribute.
Bosch ranks No. 1 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $49.5 billion in its 2018 fiscal year.