A Seattle-based nonprofit launched to provide digital health solutions for poorer countries is applying its expertise to help with COVID-19 testing.
Audere is building software for administering rapid result COVID tests that can be integrated into products being developed by U.S. manufacturers that use saliva or nasal swab samples.
“There is a critical need for rapid testing,” said Philip Su, CEO and founder of Audere. People are increasingly realizing that the widespread distribution of a vaccine is still many months away. The availability of accurate, inexpensive tests that provide results in minutes can help control the spread of the virus in the meantime, Su said.
The tests — known generally as rapid diagnostic tests or RDTs — can have high rates of failure, though the basic concept is simple. Imagine a home pregnancy test, as an example. A liquid sample is applied to a testing device, the fluid travels across the testing material and triggers a chemical reaction if a target disease or hormone is present. That reaction is visible as a colored bar or other shape.
In the past 20 years, the tests have grown in popularity, particularly as tools used in low- and middle-income countries for detecting HIV and malaria. They can be administered in clinics by providers with limited medical expertise or by people at home.
The tests “are simple, easy to use, affordable and they’re stable,” said Roger Peck, a senior program officer in diagnostics at PATH, a longstanding global health nonprofit not affiliated with the project. “They’re becoming more and more commonplace, and really accepted by healthcare workers.”
But they’re not fail-proof. Studies show that the tests can give inaccurate results when people take the