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Testing observer William Cuthbertson checks a Penn community member's test tube at the Annenberg Center testing site on Jan. 19.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

A new Penn Medicine rapid diagnostic COVID-19 test can produce results quickly and accurately. 

Presidential Assistant Professor César de la Fuente led a team at PennMed to develop a diagnostic test called RAPID that allows people to quickly test for COVID-19. RAPID uses a simple circuit board contraption that connects to smartphones to deliver results within minutes.

A recent study on the efficacy of the RAPID test found that it can detect COVID-19 within four minutes with 90 percent accuracy. RAPID is also inexpensive relative to other tests and can be quickly produced in large quantities.

"[The RAPID test] is made out of cardboard, so it's recyclable and low cost," de la Fuente told ABC News Philly.

The team developed and tested RAPID's accuracy using 189 COVID-19 saliva and nasal samples, including samples of the highly-contagious B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom, provided by the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania.

Because the test is able to detect even low amounts of COVID-19, individuals carrying the virus can be diagnosed and quarantined at early stages of contracting the disease. De la Fuente told ABC News Philly that this test would be helpful in countries where COVID-19 cases are increasing and where the vaccine is not yet widely available.

“We envision this type of test being able to be used at high-populated locations such as schools, airports, stadiums, companies — or even in one’s own home,” Marcelo Der Torossian Torres, a postdoctoral researcher in de la Fuente's lab and first author of the study, told Penn Medicine.

In July of 2020, de la Fuente and his lab received $80,000 in prize money to produce RAPID. 

De la Fuente said he plans to integrate the paper-based COVID-19 test into face masks to indicate to the mask-wearer whether there are viral COVID-19 particles on the mask. 

The team is awaiting FDA approval and is working towards expanding the product to be able to test for other diseases such as the flu and sexually transmitted diseases.

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