UC Davis develops rapid COVID test that yields results in 20 minutes

UC Davis has made some major strides in quickly detecting COVID in people as well as being able to differentiate those patients from flu cases. 

Knowing if a person is infected with the virus days after being tested is little help for those charged with stopping the spread. The University of California, Davis has developed a fast and low-cost saliva test, that can accurately detect the virus in 20 minutes. 

"It's comparable to laboratory methods. There's no penalty for having the small, more convenient test," said UC Davis Clinical Chemistry Professor Nam Tran. For the last few months, it has been used mostly for emergency room patients.

Now, the tests, which costs about $4 to $6 each, are being rolled out to students and staff for free multiple times. 

"It allows you to do much higher density testing, many more tests all at once, so it's efficient," said UC Davis Epidemiologist Brad Pollock.

Simply, put a saliva sample in the tube and the machine uses a highly accelerated process to deliver accurate COVID results in time to act to protect others. 

"You're shedding like crazy for two or three days before you develop symptoms if you ever develop symptoms. A good 30% of the folks never get symptoms," said Pollock.

But, it gets better especially during the current flu season. 

"People come in with fever, terrible body aches, and a cough. Well, that could be either one," said UC Berkeley Vaccinologist Emeritus Dr. John Swartzberg.

The test can now be modified to also detect if the patient has the common flu or COVID. 

"You'll be able to do one stop shop testing, if you will, to sort of rule that out," said Pollock.

"When there's someone who is very sick in the emergency room, knowing if they're Covid or not is also helps our healthcare providers take the necessary precautions," said Tran.

As health experts learn how long protection lasts, then officials can determine when to do away with face masks and social distancing.