A simple blood test taken on arrival in the UAE could help prevent the spread of deadly viruses such as Covid-19.
AES Venture, in Masdar City, has developed a new product – similar to a pregnancy or diabetes blood test – to spot a variety of killer viruses in minutes.
The device, named The Reader, extracts blood samples and its findings are shared with health authorities in real time through the company’s online platform, Mondialab Pro.
“The sampling part can be done by any officer or member of staff as it is very simple,” said Allan Gaertke, Mondialab’s chief executive and founder.This enables public health authorities users to implement quarantine protocols faster than before.
“It could be done at the exit of an aircraft on arrival to test passengers who may be symptomatic.”
Nasal swabs used to detect coronavirus can take 24 hours to process.
But the Mondialab test unit can return a positive or negative result within 10 minutes, its developers said. “This test has the same accuracy as a pregnancy test, and is similar to tests being done billions of times a day around the world,” Mr Gaertke said.
“We have made a better digital platform that can test for multiple viruses at a time and share the results in real time.”
Discussions are under way with authorities in China, the source of the Covid-19 virus, to carry out pilot research of the device in a city of 25 million people.
More than 80,000 people have had Covid-19 diagnosed worldwide, with a sudden increase in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea edging the virus towards a global pandemic.
Three field tests were completed during the research phase in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Jordan.
The detection device uses Lateral Flow Immunoassay – a simple diagnostic tool used to confirm the presence or absence of markers such as pathogens that might indicate or exclude the presence of a virus.
It is also used to spot contaminants in water supplies, foodstuffs, or animal feeds. Its use as an effective indicator of potential pandemics could help transform the way countries contain viral outbreaks.
AES Venture recently moved its production to the UAE from Switzerland to support its humanitarian relief work in Africa and Asia.
“We have not reinvented the wheel, only digitalised this form of biochemistry, which has been used every day for 40 years,” Mr Gaertke said. “Our idea was to create an on-site control and command centre to let NGOs working in the field.”
Mr Gaertke said he envisaged the technology being used as a cost-effective method of screening for diseases such as Ebola, malaria, dengue and Zika, as well as Covid-19.
“It gives authorities the diagnostic speed they need to keep pace with the spread of a disease, so they can track carriers of a virus in real time when they arrive in a country.”
Similar rapid-test portable devices cost about €2,500 (Dh10,000), whereas a Mondialab unit costs only €350.
Saudi Arabia could be one of the first countries to use the device at border crossings.
“The Ministry of Health here is investing heavily to protect those who live here and society generally,” said Wael El Ayoubi, regional director of Saudi Arabia Medical Devices.
“Protecting against outbreaks like the coronavirus will take a huge effort, but the Mondialab platform can go a long way to helping achieve that.”