New 'rapid result' coronavirus testing could help hotspot cities

Hawaii state Department of Health microbiologist Mark Nagata demonstrates the process for testing a sample for coronavirus at the department's laboratory in Pearl City, Hawaii on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – There's a "game-changer" in testing for the coronavirus.

Abbott Labs is speeding the production of a new portable test that gives results in less than 5 minutes.

The test is designed to help health care workers get ahead in the testing battle, especially in potential "hotspot" cities with a growing outbreak.

The fastest potential turnaround time for COVID-19 test results in Indiana is 24 hours.

Based on early estimates, the state was poised to turnaround about 1,000 tests each day.

These tests are processed for emergency rooms, nursing homes and healthcare workers statewide.

But is Indiana hitting its goal?

"We're testing over 10 times the number of Hoosiers than we were able to do just weeks ago," Dr. Kristine Box said. "We continue to have 24 hour turnaround from when we received the specimen from our healthcare professionals on the front line."

While the State Health Commissioner would not provide specific numbers for its testing partnership with Eli Lilly, the state's largest hospital network says it has made a difference.

IU Health is now conducting it's own testing, handling about 400 tests a day.

But just across the Indiana border in Illinois, a new game-changer is speeding through production.

Abbott Labs won emergency approval from the FDA for a new ID Now system.

The ID Now system can provide a positive result in less than 5 minutes and a negative result in just 13 minutes.

What's even more promising, the system is portable. It means no more waiting on results from clogged off-site labs.

"That enables the healthcare provider to see a patient, diagnose a patient and take the necessary interventions in a very short amount of time and can help prevent transmissions to other people," explained Gavin Cloherty, in a video release provided by Abbott. Cloherty is the head of the company's Infectious Disease Research.

The instant results have the capacity for 50,000 test results a day. Abbott experts say it can provide guidance for hotspots.

So far, 18 states are in the pipeline. But what does it mean for Indiana?

Dr. Box says the state is currently working to connect with another unnamed lab that could double the health department's output. But right now, Indiana has no access to results in minutes.

"There is one reported group that is doing some rapid tests that we're look into here in Marion County," Dr. Box told WTHR. "I know the Marion County Health Department is looking into hem but there are no rapid testing abilities here."

As the state awaits the announcement of the new lab to help Indiana identify the spread of COVID-19, Abbott is ramping up production with a goal of providing 1 million rapid-result coronavirus tests each week.