At this current time, there is no scientific cure for the rapidly spreading COVID19. However, military scientists are working incredibly hard to develop a new test that will have the ability to detect the virus on an individual in the early stages.
The test is being developed by the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), founded in 2018, an agency that in ordinary times helped troops that have been exposed to chemical and biological weapons. Due to the global pandemic, DARPA has been repurposed in order to develop research to help combat the world panic of the virus. The blood based test, developed by DARPA has the potential to reduce the number of victims of the virus. It has the ability to be able to detect the virus in as little as 24 hours after the person has been infected, four days earlier than any other test that has been developed currently. This test will be capable for detecting the virus before an individual starts to develop symptoms, making it revolutionary in the progress of preventing the virus. Dr Brad Ringeisen told the Guardian,this development in testing has the ability to be “absolutely a game changer” for COVID19 prevention.
The head of DARPA biological technology office told the Guardian, “The concept fills a diagnostic gap worldwide”. It has the ability to change the face of testing as current tests only have the capability to detect the virus at a later stage. This test looks at how a person’s body fights the virus versus other tests that have been looking at just the presence of the virus itself. It could be more effective than the current nose swab tests that have been used to identify the virus.
Even though this test potentially has the capability to reduce the number of people spreading COVID19. DARPA has acknowledged that the test will need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration before being able to be manufactured on a larger scale. Looking ahead, this could be a significant development if a second wave of the virus occurs once lockdown measures start to lift.
Whilst the excitement of this early stage test could make significant changes to multiple destinations around the world, DARPA has explained the importance of approval of the US Food and Administration as this will give the agency a chance to put the test into practice and gather evidence of how capable it is of detecting the virus early. The test will help ensure citizens are diagnosed before the worst effect of the virus makes an impact on their health.
Fox News reports that Dr Eric Van Gieson, an influential individual that set up DARPA’s ECHO programme to diagnose victims of biological weapons, has explained that not only does the test have the ability to detect the virus at an early stage, it will provide value “to the epidemiologists who want to evaluate the spread of the virus and how they were infected over time and geography.” This could be vital for the future of living with coronavirus as locations where it is affecting citizens the most can be identified.
In order to credit the research before the development of the test, announcements will be made public from collaborating medical schools Mount Sinai Duke University and Princeton. Dr Eric Van Gieson explained to the Guardian “We want to roll this test out as quickly as we can, but at the same time share with others who might want to implement in their own countries”. Once this research is published online, it gives scientists around the world the chance to develop similar methods to help the containment of the virus.
Remaining optimistic, once approval is granted for the test it will begin to be put into practice in the second half of May in the US. DARPA scientists are keeping enthusiastic about the help this test could offer US citizens as 1 million tests a day could be carried out, especially in light of recent worries of the impact that the second wave of coronavirus could have.
If the response to this test is successful, it could reduce quarantine periods of those individuals that have been exposed to COVID 19 spreaders, allowing them to go back to work significantly quicker. As a result of this, it could have a massive impact on the economy as workforces could return to offices, warehouses and factories. It could impact all countries’ abilities to operate efficient tracing programmes, if the virus was able to be detected earlier.
DARPA are overcoming many challenges due to COVID19 however with the research they are carrying out, the blood based test and accompanying technology such as DIGIT, the road to finding a cure for Coronavirus is becoming more apparent.