UAE: New AI-powered Covid test gives results in 5 minutes

A representative displays the AI-powered Covid-19 antigen test kit during the International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi. KT Photo: Ryan Lim
A representative displays the AI-powered Covid-19 antigen test kit during the International Defence Exhibition in Abu Dhabi. KT Photo: Ryan Lim

Dubai - Unlike PCR tests, samples are collected using a nasal swab from just one inch into the nostril on both sides, causing neither discomfort nor pain.

By Ashwani Kumar and Saman Haziq

Published: Wed 24 Feb 2021, 5:36 PM

A Canadian firm has partnered with two UAE companies to offer the world’s first artificial intelligence-powered rapid Covid-19 antigen test system that can deliver real-time coronavirus test results in just five minutes.


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The smartphone-based rapid antigen test procedure is on display at the ongoing International Defence Exhibition (Idex) in Abu Dhabi.

Explaining how the LooK SPOT Artificial Intelligence Covid-19 antigen rapid test works, Ramzi Hussein, senior account manager, Pure Health, noted the entire process involves a mobile app, reader device and kit with antigen cassette droppers, buffer tubes and nasal swabs.

“You take the nasal swab, put the sample immediately into the buffer solution, stir it a bit — then use a dropper to transfer a few amounts of the sample to the cassette." Only 2-3 drops are required, said Hussein, adding that the tip of the dropper should not touch the test cassette.

"The cassette can then be put into the reader, which is connected to the smartphone. It will be read through the camera of your smartphone on which the app is stored. When the barcode in the cassette gets scanned, you get a unique sample number. There is no chance of human error,” Hussein said.

Five to eight minutes is all it takes to get results back, he added. “If a single line appears in the cassette, it means the kit is working; if two lines appear, it means the test result is positive. This is similar to the pregnancy test kit. The result will reflect in the app,” Hussein said, noting that the test is only being used in certain areas at the moment and is yet to be made public. “We are also working to get it integrated to the Al Hosn app,” he told Khaleej Times.

Talking about the unique aspect of the test, CEO of the Canadian firm Laipac Technology Diego Lai told Khaleej Times: “Unlike other Covid tests — such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) — samples are collected using the nasal swab from just one inch into the nostril on both sides. It does not cause any discomfort or pain and, unlike other tests, it does not go all the way up the nose. This nasal sample collection method is much safer and more comfortable than other collection methods."

Lai added that most other antigen tests are based on the visual interpretation of the colour signal; however, this is difficult for positive cases where the viral load is low.

“Healthcare responders at test sites often need to make time-sensitive decisions to determine the visual interpretation results. The tempo, volume, stress, fatigue, lighting, fear, and various other factors can overwhelm healthcare responders when visually interpreting the test results. LooK SPOT, however, reduces healthcare responders' cognitive load by providing accurate test results in an easy-to-read format in real-time.”

Calling it the fastest and most reliable antigen test in the world, Lai added that the test kit delivers real-time test results with 97.4% sensitivity and 98.3% specificity in detecting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

"It uses an algorithm that has high accuracy and can identify the colour signal on tests in low positive cases when human eyes cannot, therefore eliminating human error as well as the manual process used in other antigen tests available in the market.”

LooK SPOT can clamp on iPhones or Android phones, acting as a smart microscope to detect the LooK Covid-19 antigen test cassette and send the test images to Laipac's proprietary AI cloud for real-time image analysis, Lai told Khaleej Times.

Lai further added that the LooK SPOT test can also detect the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

How LooK SPOT fares against other antigen tests

> Most antigen rapid tests get the test results between 15 to 30 minutes. LooK SPOT gives you test results between 5 to 8 minutes. The new SPEED mode can deliver results in 30 seconds.

> Most antigen rapid tests have detection limits at Ct 18 to 24 and can only detect high viral loads. LooK SPOT has a detection limit at Ct 29. It can detect patients with low viral loads.

> Most antigen rapid tests do not record test results automatically. They must be registered by hand. LooK SPOT has a powerful backend that does AI image analysis and records test results automatically. It pushes the test results to patients with no human errors.

After the data is collected manually, the process of tracing is slow or non-existent. It is a Rapid Test but Slow Trace. LooK SPOT can provide API to customers for Test & Trace campaign in real-time.

> Most antigen rapid tests rely on visual interpretation. There is a lot of data showing up to 30% of sensitivity discrepancies by using visual interpretation. LooK SPOT has 97.4% sensitivity by AI regardless of the operator's visual skill, location, lighting, mood, fatigue, stress, or fear.

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