Is a home coronavirus test on its way?

Hod Hasharon-based BATM Advanced Communications Limited announced that they have developed a new diagnostic kit to detect the novel coronavirus and that the idea of creating a home test is under discussion.

Coronavirus diagnostic kit by BATM (photo credit: COURTESY: BATM)
Coronavirus diagnostic kit by BATM
(photo credit: COURTESY: BATM)
An Israeli firm has developed a new diagnostic kit to detect the novel coronavirus and the idea of creating a home test is under discussion, the company said.
Hod Hasharon-based BATM Advanced Communications Ltd.’s CEO, Dr. Zvi Marom, told The Jerusalem Post that compared to the kit that is currently used by hospitals all over the world, BATM’s product is faster and more accurate, and within a few weeks, the company aims to set the cost at approximately NIS 1 per test. The kit is expected to receive the EU’s CE certification mark next week.
“We are a very well-known entity within the field of infectious diseases. In the past several years, people have been paying more attention to different kinds of illnesses, like cancer for example, forgetting the damage that infectious diseases cause,” he said. “We decided to focus on the diagnostic of pathogens, which means viruses, microbes, fungi etc., which are still the most fatal killer on the face of the earth.”
For the past nine years, BATM has been working with leading research institutions in several countries to develop an innovative diagnostic device to identify any kind of pathogen in less than half an hour.
“We built a machine that looks like a shoebox in which cartridges containing between 100 and 200 pathogens are inserted according to the suspected disease: we have created a hospital admission cartridge, a respiratory cartridge, a meningitis cartridge and so on,” Marom explained.
The system is currently being tested in hospitals.
“We believe that this will mark a very big change in how people are diagnosed and treated in infectious diseases,” he said.
BATM began to apply its knowledge from the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We got reports about the virus from our Chinese colleagues very early on and started to monitor the situation, even receiving from them the sequence of the virus. We understood immediately that we were looking at a cousin of the SARS and the MERS diseases and we began to prepare,” he said.
The company began developing a specific kit for the coronavirus family of diseases, creating one that complies with all the directives of the [US] Center for Disease Control and Prevention and is completely compatible with the equipment currently available in hospitals.
“We basically took what we had in our research about SARS and MERS and we added to them the COVID-19 and developed a new kit just for these three diseases that can be used with existing hospital equipment,” Marom said. “All they need from us is a special kind of small tube.”
The CEO highlighted that the BATM kit has a number of advantages, among them the fact that is faster than the more common one, and most importantly, it reduces the number of false positive results.
He also said they are already working with several partners, including with government-related institutions in Israel and in Italy to manufacture the kits in large quantities and make them affordable.
The company is producing the kit at its subsidiary Adaltis facility in Rome.
Italy is third in number of cases, with more than 1,600 people testing positive for coronavirus. Marom explained that they are collaborating with several universities in the country, including Rome’s Tor Vergata.
There are nearly 90,000 cases of the virus globally.
Marom said that even though this should not be a cause for panic, it is unavoidable that the virus will spread all over the world, including in Israel.
“Diagnosis is going to be an important issue, not because this is a very dangerous virus but because it spreads very rapidly and it is unknown. Looking at human history we see that new viruses bring difficult results,” he said.
“It is important for me to highlight that with my job in the private sector I have been part of the decisions that the Israeli government and the Health Ministry have made since the very beginning. I have to say that the measures taken have been on the cautious side and have followed the protocols suggested for facing a new virus. For this reason, I believe that we will have a very good prognosis in Israel until the virus disappears,” he said, adding that BATM is also considering creating a home coronavirus test, but that the matter is still under discussion because it might not represent the best solution.
“My first priority is to make this kit available for the benefit of the population.”