March 23, 2020 -- The FDA has approved a rapid COVID-19 test that gives results in 45 minutes. That's a big improvement over current testing, which takes at least 24 hours for results.
Cepheid, a medical diagnostics company in Sunnyvale, CA, that makes the tests, says they'll be available by the end of March.
The company says that hospitals and labs that now use Cepheid's equipment -- called "GeneXpert" systems -- can run the rapid tests.
The testing process begins the same way as all COVID-19 tests. A doctor collects a sample from you, typically with a swab that goes into your nose.
In the new rapid method, the doctor then transfers your sample into a special cartridge. The cartridge already has agents in it that test for SARS-CoV-2 -- the scientific name of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The doctor places the cartridge into the GeneXpert system, which can test up to 80 samples at a time.
David Persing, MD, the chief medical officer at Cepheid, says the tests will let hospitals make quicker decisions about whether to isolate people who show up with potential symptoms of COVID-19. Hospital staff will also be able to make rapid decisions about the best way to use their resources, such as respiratory equipment.
The new test is not an at-home test. The FDA, which OK'd the tests under its new "emergency use authorization" rules, says they're meant to be used at what it calls "point-of-care" sites. Those are places like hospitals, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms.