Coronavirus: Made-in-Singapore diagnostics test implemented in hospitals here

The test kit comprises a pre-packed mix of reagents to test patient samples, which are then fed into a machine that analyses the results.
The test kit comprises a pre-packed mix of reagents to test patient samples, which are then fed into a machine that analyses the results.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

A made-in-Singapore diagnostic test kit that detects the presence of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) with high accuracy has been rolled out at some public hospitals here.

Plans are in place to scale up production so the kits can be deployed at other hospitals and laboratories which are not offering 2019-nCoV tests, said the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), whose scientists developed the pre-packed reagents.

This will widen the network of facilities in Singapore that can accurately screen patients for the coronavirus, reducing the wait time for results and allowing those infected to be treated quickly.

The test kit was developed by scientists at A*Star's Experimental Drug Development Centre and Bioinformatics Institute.

A number of public hospitals here last weekend received 5,000 test kits in total, and Singapore has the capability to produce more, A*Star said. Singapore also sent 10,000 of the test kits to China to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Currently, to determine if someone has been infected with 2019-nCoV, samples are first taken from the patient. These are then processed by laboratory technologists at the hospitals. The technologists mix reagents together in a tube before placing the sample in it, then feed it into a machine which can take between two and four hours to register a reading.

But the entire process could take up to a day, said Prof Lin, highlighting factors such as the time to transport the sample, and sort the data.

However, a test kit could expedite this process at some laboratories by reducing the time required for preparing the reagent mix.

Such tests are pre-packed with reagents mixed in the right quantities, and with quality control tubes included. All that is required is for technologists to place the patient's sample in the tube before feeding it to the machine.


The diagnostics test kit also makes the procedure easier, allowing more laboratories in Singapore - including those with less experience working with reagents required to test for 2019-nCoV - to conduct them as well, without compromising accuracy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 09, 2020, with the headline 'Made-in-Singapore diagnostics test implemented in hospitals here'. Subscribe