Researchers at the University of Washington have created a faster, cheaper COVID test. It’s called “Harmony COVID-19.” The test combines the speed of an over-the-counter antigen test with the accuracy of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are processed in labs and hospitals. It will provide results in around 20 minutes with a clinical study showing an accuracy of about 97 percent for nasal swabs. For reference, most PCR tests have an accuracy of 95 percent or better, and most rapid tests have an accuracy of 80-85 percent.
Harmony uses a method called reverse transcription, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP). Let’s break this down: reverse transcription (RT) is used to detect or quantify RNA, a lot of tests including the current COVID PCR tests use this process, loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP), according to Nature, is a “DNA amplification method that allows rapid and sensitive detection of a specific gene.” Combining these two methods has allowed this new test to be fast, effective, and cost-efficient.
Current PCR tests take 1-3 days to get results and rapid tests are either less accurate, hard to obtain, or very expensive. The creators of Harmony hope for their tests to be available everywhere, from clinics to schools, to help provide everyone with accurate and less expensive testing. The National Institutes of Health has provided funding that will help support the manufacturing of these tests at a new Anavasi facility close to Seattle.