Abbott’s Corona Virus Test Cannot Stop a Pandemic

Donald Trump’s recent announcement for the lack of COVID19 diagnosis across United States in the form of Abbott’s ID NOW™ platform, will not help the country fight or even slow the current pandemic.

Touted to help front line workers and remote clinics to detect infected individuals in as little as five minutes using their nasal swabs. Beginning April 1st 2020, the setup is being supplied across United States at 50,000 units per day as a replacement for conventional commercial PCR based testing kits. Critics and doctors alike have pointed out the deficiencies of the system that can handicap efforts to eradicate corona virus.


Built on a pre-existing platform, the technology builds Abbott’s ID Now platform. According to Abbott this is currently the most common point-of-care test currently available in the US, with more than 18,000 units spread across the country. It is widely used to detect influenza, strep throat and respiratory syncytial virus, a common bug that causes cold-like symptoms. Mostly used in clinics to diagnose fevers.

Described as a rapid, instrument-based, isothermal system for the qualitative detection of infectious diseases. The platform uses isothermal nucleic acid amplification to replicate parts of the virus to help them easier to detect by the system. It provides molecular results in just minutes, instead of the current 12 hours it takes, allowing doctors to make effective clinical decisions sooner.


ID NOW’s biggest drawback is its ability to only analyse one sample at a time. With a runtime of 15 minutes and a prep time of 20 minutes, the system can carry out a maximum of 45 tests a day if it is run 24 hours continuously and manually. In contrast to labs that are able to test close to 800 samples in on run and manage three batches per 24 hours, totalling almost 2400 tests in a day. Most importantly these tests can be done by two people or even automated.

The lack of volume greatly limits the places where the ID NOW system can be used and the number of people that can be tested and quarantine. This makes the Abbott ID NOW system practically of little use during this pandemic.


Unavailability of reagents was already an issue with large scale laboratory diagnosis, with the ID NOW test, the problem has been compounded. Normally, demand for these enzymes is very steady and relatively low, so scaling up to the massive quantities that are required for COVID19 testing takes time. More importantly, the platform uses very specific reagents unlike the large scale tests that are proprietary to Abbott. This limits the availability of the reagent in the short term and even in the long term.

Check FDA guidelines for Running COVID19 Tests on the ID NOW system here.

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