University of Tartu, research company developing rapid coronavirus test ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Coronavirus samples being tested in a lab.
Coronavirus samples being tested in a lab. Source: Ser Amantio di Nicolao/Wikimedia Commons

The University of Tartu (TÜ) and Selfdiagnostics, a medical equipment research and development company, are cooperating on developing a rapid SARS-CoV-2 test enabling the more rapid detection of the novel coronavirus at a lower price.

The new rapid test will significantly increase testing capacity and deliver greater resource efficiency. The project has been awarded an EIT Health product development grant by the European institute of Innovation and Technology.

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and, according to assessments by the international scientific community, the virus may cause mass outbreaks again during the fall influenza season. Thus it is important to increase testing capability outside of central laboratories and hospitals in order to prepare for a possible new spike in infections.

The rapid test in development does not require any large equipment or special facilities, thus providing a pocket lab solution which guarantees mobile testing capability based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. The rapid test will help alleviate the burden on central testing systems and respond to exceptionally high testing needs. The soltuion can be used by specialist and family doctors alike, as well as by pharmacists and care home medical staff.

"Similarly to existing methods, the test identifies the presence of virus RNA in a nasal swab, providing a reliable tool for detecting infection," said Kaido Kurrikoff, senior researcher at the University of Tartu Institute of Technology.

"The purpose of this research project is to launch the rapid test this fall already to help prepare for the next pandemic," Selfdiagnostics CEO Marko Lehis said. "The use of the technology will provide greater independence during a time when supply chains may be interrupted due to an emergency situation. Thus, such a capability and resource will help ensure national security and economic sustainability."

Selfdiagnostics OÜ is an Estonian capital-based developer and producer of medical equipment. The company has been developing medical diagnostics methods and equipment in cooperation with the University of Tartu Institute of Technology for over ten years. The project team includes Selfdiagnostics' academic and industrial partners as well as international experts. The development of the coronavirus rapid test is financed by the EIT Health community of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Recovered COVID-19 patients invited to donate plasma

TÜ, Tartu University Hospital (TÜK) and North Estonia Medical Center (PERH) are inviting those who have recovered from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to donate blood plasma as part of a clinical study of the efficiency of plasma therapy in the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Plasma can be donated by volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60 who are not regularly taking medications (with the exception of contraceptives). Eligibility for the study is being assessed in both Tallinn and Tartu.

Eligible donors will be sent to the Blood Center at PERH for final assessment and plasma collection as said hospital is the only one in Estonia equipped for plasma collection.

Juri Karjagin, associate professor at TÜ's Department of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care and chair of anesthesiology and intensive care at TÜK, said that no medication is known ye to stop the reproduction of the coronavirus. What is known, however, is that people who have recovered from the virus have developed antibodies, which can be used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

"Plasma transfusions from people who have recovered from an infectious disease have been used to treat other patients who have contracted the same disease with both swine fever and SARS-1," Karjagin said. "The use of plasma from recovered patients has also been described during the current pandemic."

The clinical study will see donated plasma containing antibodies administered to infected patients to determine the effect thereof on the course of their treatment and changes in their virological and immunological markers.

Ain Kaare, head of the Department of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation at TÜK, said that the expected result of plasma therapy is a reduced risk of the disease worsening and the need for intensive care emerging.

Plasma collected from donors will be administered to a random sample of 20 patients from among a total of 40 COVID-19 patients being treated at either TÜK or PERH.

The pilot study being conducted by TÜ, TÜK and PERH has been approved by TÜ's research ethics committee as well as the State Agency of Medicines.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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