In the coming weeks, nine hospitals in Estonia will roll out faster tests in their emergency medicine departments to detect the COVID-19 virus when hospitalizing patients; the tests are expected to provide results within an hour.
"Faster RNA tests are suitable for use in hospitals to test patients in emergency medicine departments during triage to determine if a person is carrying the pathogen," explained Jelena Tomassova, the deputy director general of the Health Board responsible for health protection. "In this way, COVID-19 positive and negative patients can quickly be distinguished during hospitalization. The tests will be introduced as soon as possible in hospitals where this capability is available."
According to the Health Board, North Estonia Medical Center (PERH), Tartu University Hospital (TÜK), Kuressaare Hospital, Pärnu Hospital, East Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK), Ida-Viru Central Hospital, Narva Hospital, Tallinn Children's Hospital and Rakvere Hospital have the devices necessary for processing samples.
The tests are expected in hospitals in a few weeks.
Tomassova emphasized that these faster tests are for hospital use only and cannot be used by people at home.
Marge Kütt, lab director at PERH, said that the hospital has a Cepheid GeneXpert Systems device for carrying out faster tests and it can be used for the molecular determination of the SARS-CoV-2 agent by the RT-PCR method.
"The advantage of the device and the proposed method over the existing method is the shorter time to obtain the result compared to our currently used method — about one hour instead of the current four hours," Kütt said. "We are expecting tests from the manufacturer, Cepheid, in about two weeks."
Rainar Aamisepp, CEO of SYNLAB North Europe and CEMEA, said that SYNLAB will continue to test for coronavirus in patients at its Tallinn laboratory on the basis of a referral from a family doctor and, when it comes to care homes and front-line workers, according to need and in accordance with procedures agreed upon with the Health Board.
"The RNA-based POCT solution used in hospitals is ideal for emergency medicine departments and hospital receptions as it gives a fast response," he added.
According to Aamisepp, SYNLAB takes up to 2,000 coronavirus samples daily by a similar method, but using higher-throughput equipment.
Editor: Aili Vahtla