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Japan universities develop new, highly accurate 30-minute coronavirus test method

Minute particles are seen forming a lump while the color of reagent changes from brown to clear as part of the new SATIC coronavirus testing method, on July 8, 2020. (Mainichi/Yuki Ogawa)

TOKYO -- Nihon University and Tokyo Medical University, both based in the capital, have announced the development of a new testing method for the novel coronavirus that takes about 30 minutes and returns accurate results.

    According to researchers, the new method is as accurate as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and the results can be judged easily by sight, thereby eliminating the need for an engineer and special detector. The universities aim to put their method into practical use by collaborating with major Japan drug manufacturer Shionogi & Co., based in the city of Osaka.

    The method is called Signal Amplification by Ternary Initiation Complexes (SATIC). In it, samples such as saliva or mucus from the throat are heated at 95 degrees Celsius for 2 minutes, and then warmed with a reagent at 37 C for 20 to 25 minutes. If ribonucleic acid (RNA) belonging to the virus is contained in the sample, minute particles of the reagent will gather and form a lump, and their appearance changes from brown to transparent, thereby making it easy to determine whether the subject is positive or negative.

    According to the universities, tests on more than 100 saliva and nasal mucus samples that were done using both the SATIC and PCR methods achieved the same results in all cases. A PCR test takes about 4 hours, as a sample has to be sent to an institute for examination with special equipment. Meanwhile, a SATIC test can be conducted at a clinic with simple heating equipment, making it quicker.

    While antigen test kits have already been put into practice as a method for quick checks, Masayasu Kuwahara, a research team member and professor who specializes in analytical chemistry at Nihon University, said, "In terms of accuracy, the SATIC method is superior."

    A representative of Shionogi & Co. said, "We think the new method could be used in clinics, quarantine facilities and other places."

    (Japanese original by Yuki Ogawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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