Three COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests get FDA thumbs-up


The Food and Drug Administration has issued Emergency Use Authorizations for three products offering rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests for COVID-19.

FDA icon Wikimedia Commons/FitzColinGerald/ Creative Commons License

The first authorization, announced by the agency on March 21, was for the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test, a rapid molecular diagnostic test for qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.

The test, manufactured by Cepheid, has a detection time of 45 minutes and has been designed to operate on any of the company’s more than 23,000 automated GeneXpert Systems worldwide, according to a statement from the company.

The agency said in its EUA approval document the test is for a “qualitative detection of nucleic acid from the SARS-CoV-2 in nasopharyngeal swab and/or nasal wash/aspirate specimens collected from patients who are suspected of having COVID-19 infection.” Positive results are indicative of an infection but do not rule out other potential infections, it noted.

The company plans to roll out the test by March 30, according to the FDA.

Cepheid said in a statement that it has almost 5,000 GeneXpert systems in the United States that are capable of point-of-care testing and ready for use in hospitals. “Our automated systems do not require users to have specialty training to perform testing – they are capable of running 24/7, with many systems already doing so today,” Warren Kocmond, the company’s president, said in the statement.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD said in a statement that the authorization marked “an important step in expanding the availability of testing and, importantly, rapid results. Point-of-care testing means that results are delivered to the patient in the patient-care settings, like hospitals, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms, instead of samples being sent to a laboratory. With today’s authorization, there is now an option for testing at the point of care, which enables patient access to more immediate results.”

On March 23, the agency issued an emergency use authorization to bioMerieux subsidiary BioFire Defense LLC for its BIOFIRE COVID-19 test, which detects SARS-CoV-2 from a nasopharyngeal swab in about 45 minutes.

The test was developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Positive results are indicative of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA; clinical correlation with patient history and other diagnostic information is necessary to determine patient infection status,” the agency said in its approval document. It again noted that positive results did not rule out bacterial infection or coinfection with other viruses.

Also on March 23, the agency issued an EUA to Mesa Biotech for its Accula SARS-CoV-2 test, which gives COVID-19 diagnostic results in 30 minutes.

The test is indicated for “qualitative, visual detection of nucleic acid from the SARS-CoV-2 in throat swab and nasal swab specimens combined, collected from patients suspected of COVID-19 by their health care provider,” according to the FDA approval document. “The SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid is generally detectable in throat and nasal swab specimens during the acute phase of infection. Positive results are indicative of the presence of SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid; clinical correlation with patient history and other diagnostic information is necessary to determine patient infection status. Positive results do not rule out bacterial infection or coinfection with other viruses.”

Mesa Biotech said in a statement that the test is designed for point-of-care use, including at temporary screening facilities, physician office labs, urgent care, and long-term nursing facilities.

“Our test will provide a highly accessible means for health care professionals to access laboratory quality results close in their office to aid in the decision to isolate, treat, or dismiss potential carriers of the virus,” Hong Cai, the CEO and cofounder of Mesa Biotech, said in a statement. “The potential to reduce the growing strain on our nation’s hospitals is tremendous.”

In separate letters to the three companies notifying them of the authorizations, the FDA said the emergency use of the products met the criteria for issuances of authorization because the SARS-CoV-2 can cause a serious or life-threatening disease or condition; it was “reasonable to believe

that [the] product may be effective in diagnosing COVID-19; and there is no “adequate, approved, and available alternative” to the emergency use of the three products.

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