Researchers at MIT, Harvard developing new, easy way to diagnose COVID-19 quickly

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Governor Charlie Baker told Boston 25 News that he wants to get to the point where 3,500 Massachusetts residents are being tested for coronavirus every day. He says right now, that isn’t possible due to a shortage of testing kits and supplies.

But a team of local researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working to fix that problem by creating a brand new testing method.

Patients tested for COVID-19 are waiting days for their test results, but researchers at MIT are working on a new testing method that they say is easy to use, cheap to produce and would deliver results in a matter of minutes.

So far, 9,000 people across Mass. have been tested for COVID-10 and the process isn’t a pleasant one. One woman told Boston 25 News a device that looks like a giant Q-Tip is inserted deep into the nostril of the patient. She told us if help like it touched her brain.

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“Our goal has been to design simple, low-cost devices that can be used rapidly in the field,” said MIT Professor Lee Gehrke.

Gehrke is part of a research team developing a new way to diagnose the virus. Researchers with MIT, Harvard, and Cambridge start-up E-25 Bio have created a device that works like a pregnancy test. Material from a nasal swab, saliva, blood or even urine is applied to a test strip that delivers a rapid result.

“Gives a positive or negative result within about 30 minutes. These tests are relatively inexpensive because they’re simple, they’re made mainly of different kinds of papers that are assembled together,” said Gehrke.

He says, they can be easily mass-produced.

“You can make literally a million of them in a day,” said Gehrke.

He says this device could be the solution we’ve been waiting for.

“We want to have a test that could be right there at the front line and in 30 minutes tell a patient whether he or she has a viral infection,” said Gehrke.

Gehrke says they’re working very quickly and hope to begin small-scale production of the paper-based tests this week.

Related: Here’s how COVID-19 moves from a concern for elderly to potentially deadly disease for all

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