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The UAE has developed a rapid laser test to identify Covid-19 patients, which aims to replace the current swab and blood tests that take several hours to process.

The test can be used for mass screenings, with results available in seconds.

The new technology is expected to be introduced to the market in a few months.

QuantLase Imaging Lab, the medical research arm of International Holdings Company, said this would allow people to be screened on a wider scale.

We believe it will be a game-changer in tackling the spread of the coronavirus

Dr Pramod Kumar

Scientists around the world are urgently seeking to devise a faster method of testing people who are suspected of being infected.

The new technology claims to identify carriers before they become infectious, which may be crucial in containing the virus. 

“We are always following innovations related to the early and rapid detection of Covid-19,” said Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention.

“The government is keen on supporting initiatives that help the healthcare system in the UAE.

“Health officials have been closely monitoring the progress of trials with QuantLase in order to test this equipment.

“We are proud to see a technology that works and that will help to protect our people better.”

The QuantLase lab has been studying the change in cell structure of virus-infected blood.

The equipment, which uses a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor, “will enable mass-scale screening with results made available in seconds”, said Dr Pramod Kumar, who leads the lab’s team of researchers.

“In fact, our laser-based [diffractive phase interferometry] technique, based on optical-phase modulation, is able to give a signature of infection within a few seconds. 

“What’s more, it is user-friendly, non-invasive and low-cost.

“The device is suitable for use not only in hospitals and public places such as cinemas and shopping malls, but with a little hands-on training it can be used for in-house testing and monitoring.

“We believe it will be a game-changer in tackling the spread of the coronavirus.”

Dr Kumar said artificial intelligence was crucial to the diagnostic system.

An advanced AI image-analysis model predicts the outcome of each image with precision, speed and scale, he said.

This is especially critical in large-scale testing programmes, where a huge number of images needs to be analysed with accuracy and efficiency. 

The lab uses G42, a leading AI and cloud computing company, to further enhance the laser programme.

“With the first 1,000 tests, we refined our experiment and then applied it to the rest of the trials,” Dr Kumar said. 

“The process passed through several stages and most recently was being trialled on a large scale, in line with current testing procedures.”

He said the machine produced results with high accuracy in an optimal control situation. 

“As far as early stage detection is concerned, our DPI technique is capable of detecting as soon as the blood cell gets infected,” Dr Kumar said.

“Our aim is to eventually reach the maximum level of accuracy.”

Marwan Ghayad

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