Central Alberta to soon get new hand-held virus tests for quicker results

AHS has formed a partnership with Spartan BioScience to develop the devices

A new hand-held virus testing device, made by Spartan BioScience, provides quick results without having to be sent to a lab. It will be available soon to communities outside Edmonton and Calgary, says Alberta Health Services. (Contributed image).

Central Albertans will soon have fast, convenient access to COVID-19 testing through a new partnership between Alberta Health Services and a Canadian technology company.

Alberta Health Services announced on Monday that a hand-held device to support COVID-19 testing in rural and remote communities is in the final stages of development by Spartan Bioscience Inc.

The device can confirm test results in less than one hour — and this technology is expected to help AHS provide additional, quicker testing for the new coronavirus in rural centres, as well as remote Indigenous communities.

Alberta Health Services states this testing device will eliminate the need for lab samples to travel to the nearest laboratory, which can be a logistical challenge.

As part of the $9.5-million contract, AHS will receive 250 hand-held devices, along with 100,000 testing kits. These will be distributed to health-care facilities outside of Calgary and Edmonton. The first shipment of devices and testing kits arrives next month.

Health Canada is expected to approve the use of the rapid test kits within a few weeks. AHS will validate test protocols and accuracy before the new technology is deployed, but has acted quickly to ensure the test kits are available in the province once approval is received.

“Alberta has been one of the fastest jurisdictions in the world for testing of COVID-19. However…. we have recognized a gap in our testing and I am pleased AHS is working swiftly with industry to find ways to ensure rapid testing for the virus is accessible for people in rural and remote communities,” says Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health.

“This investment will… alleviate pressures on our front-line workers with quick result confirmations.”

The technology will be used in addition to AHS’ current lab testing. “COVID-19 places significantly increased demand on our lab capacity. (The new testing devices) will help guide appropriate care and isolation, speed up our contact tracing, and reduce the risk of further spread,” says AHS President and CEO Dr. Verna Yiu.

Spartan Bioscience specializes in DNA detection technology. Dr. Paul Lem, CEO of Spartan Bioscience Inc. said, “We think portable, rapid COVID-19 molecular testing will be important to help stop the pandemic. It is gratifying to see a made-in-Canada solution helping Canadians and is critical to Canada’s response.”

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