Taiwan demands automated PCR testing
The COVID-19 outbreak is putting tremendous pressure on medical treatment in Taiwan. A good way to reduce the workload of health and disease prevention staff would be to let machines do all the work that does not require a human being.
A final diagnosis of COVID-19 is made based on the results of a person’s polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which takes three to four hours when done by hand. An increase in the volume of screening pushes institutions to increase their screening capacity – more equipment, more staff, and longer working hours – which dramatically increases the risk of infection for screening staff. If the tests were automated, it would reduce the risk of infection and increase testing capacity.
In April last year, TCI Gene and the Ministry of Health and Welfare launched the Quantitative Virus Scanner-96 (QVS-96) – Taiwan’s first automated test device for SARS-CoV-2 , which causes COVID-19.
The QVS-96, which sells for US $ 700,000, is said to be the second such device in the world. It can run around the clock, performing 900 tests per day with 99.9% accuracy.
Media reports at the time indicated that the virus scanner had been validated by the Centers for Disease Control and would be used in the agency’s Kunyang lab, adding that satisfactory performance would see the scanner installed elsewhere, according to the COVID-19 situation, and would improve testing efficiency during influenza season.
Reports last month indicated that TCI Gene had suspended the planned export of two QVS-96S virus scanners, with a daily testing capacity of 1,900 tests, and that the company had joined the national disease prevention team. .
In December of last year, LabTurbo Biotech and the Institute for Preventive Medicine at the National Defense Medical Center completed development of the LabTurbo AIO 48, a fully automated testing device capable of performing 1,000 tests per day.
These developments show that the country’s biotechnology industry has been very successful in increasing testing capacity.
As of March 31 last year, Taiwan had four testing and treatment centers, which could perform 3,200 COVID-19 tests per day. On May 15 this year, the Central Outbreak Command Center said there were 126 such facilities, capable of performing 16,000 tests per day. The ratio of centers to testing shows that the increase in testing capacity was mainly achieved by increasing the number of testing facilities.
As the QVS-96 appears to have only been installed at the Kunyang laboratory and at a private facility, the Landseed International Hospital in Taoyuan, it is difficult to see what kind of advanced approach the government could deploy to increase capacity. screening.
Taiwan makes sophisticated instruments that have been certified in the US and European countries, so why not allocate NT $ 200 million (US $ 7.24 million) of the $ 630 billion COVID-19 relief budget NT to buy 10 automated virus scanners?
This would give the nation a daily testing capacity of 19,000 tests.
Such an investment would bring real relief to all disease prevention staff, who have worked hard day and night on screening and contact tracing, and help maintain adequate care capacity for patients who need it. It would also allow local governments to reassure people by speeding up the selection process.
Liu Te-yen is a student at the Graduate Institute of Marine Affairs at National Sun Yat-sen University.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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