An Australian startup is pushing for a rapid COVID-19 test that uses mouthwash and my frequently probed nostrils are already thanking them.
Medtech group Inventive Health recently formed an agreement with Israeli startup Virusight Diagnostic to bring SpectraLIT rapid testing kits to Australia and overseas markets.
The proposed test uses what’s called mass spectrometry. According to the Broad Institute, it’s “an analytical tool useful for measuring the mass-to-charge ratio of one or more molecules present in a sample.” Reportedly, it can analyse samples, crosscheck them with analyses of nasal swabs, and identify COVID infections within seconds.
“Rather than someone sticking [a swab] up your nose, you can wash it around your mouth and spit it in a test tube,” executive chairman of Inventive Health, former iSOFT chief executive Gary Cohen told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Removing the uncomfortable experience of having your nasal cavities probed could encourage more people to get tested and regularly. According to Cohen, school organisers overseas are interested in the technology with some seeing it as a time-effective key to reopening economies.
“In many of the markets we’re speaking to — France, England, other parts of Europe — everyone wants this for schools and education institutions. They [want] the ability to do rapid testing in those environments,” Cohen said.
As to whether this product is likely to be rolled out, that’s up in the air right now.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), who is involved in monitoring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines among other things, banned at-home COVID-19 testing kits because they should be done by a health professional.
“There is also a potential risk that some individuals could be motivated to conceal or not report a positive test, especially if they felt that their symptoms were mild and, for example, they might lose employment income,” the TGA explained on its website.
“It is not sustainable without rapid testing to be able to open up economies,” Cohen added.
“The vaccine is one way to help, but you need to have a parallel support mechanism.
“You have to show that this is clinically effective, and we genuinely believe it is.”
Update: The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has told Gizmodo Australia that they were not aware of the Aussie startup’s proposed rapid COVID-19 test mouthwash.
“The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for regulating the import, export, and supply of medical devices, including in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) devices. All products that meet the definition of a medical device, as specified in the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, unless exempt, must be included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) before they can be lawfully supplied in Australia. Whether a product meets the definition of a medical device depends on the intended purpose and claims made by the manufacturer.
“The mouthwash, if intended to be used in testing for COVID-19, would be considered a medical device, and the test for the detection of the virus-specific molecules would be considered an IVD. Both would require inclusion in the ARTG prior to their supply in Australia.
“The TGA was not aware of this product.”