Ultra-rapid PCR testing now on trial at Brussels Airport

From today (Monday 18 October) passengers at Brussels Airport will be able to take an ultra-rapid PCR test to check whether or not they’re infected with coronavirus. The test provides a result within 15 minutes and is just as accurate as a standard PCR test. 

The tests that will be used at the airport in Zaventem (Flemish Brabant) were developed by the Leuven (Flemish Brabant) research centre imec and its spin-off miDiagnostics. Like standard PCR tests a swab is used to take a sample from a person’s nose. The difference is with the chip that is used to analyse the sample. The chip has been miniaturised to just 1 cm². It is made from silicon that is a very good heat conductor as such it can be warmed up and cooled off very quickly which is necessary in order to carry out the sample analysis.  

Such is the speed at which this can be done that using the new technique it is now possible to have a result from a PCR test in just 15 minutes.

In addition to the ultra-rapid PCR test those being tested at the airport will be given a second test devised by imec that analyses exhaled breath. Those being tested blow into a testing machine for 4 seconds. This is repeated 8 times. The machine analyses molecules in the breath exhaled and based on this is abled to say whether or not a person has become infected with coronavirus.

The technology could, in time, be used to detect other ailments such as tuberculosis and flu. Under the pilot project that was launched at Brussels Airport earlier today all passengers that have taken a standard PCR test can opt to voluntarily take an ultra-rapid PCR test too. They can do so each weekday from 9am until 5pm.


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