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A tale of tradeoffs for a new type of coronavirus test



Good afternoon, readers.

I’m juggling a few things, so I’m afraid I’ll have to leave you with a short one. But I wanted to highlight a story by my colleague David Meyer on a new type of coronavirus test that’s been deployed in France.

Traditional COVID tests—not the blood tests for antibodies, but the ones for an active case of the disease—aren’t exactly fun. You get to have a swab shoved deep into your nose to collect a sample. That sample then has to be sent to a lab where it’s run through a machine that can conduct so-called PCR chain tests, analyzed, and then sent back.

The turnaround times are far from ideal during a surge in American cases. COVID diagnostics are a time-consuming process weighed down by logistics issues and supply chain constraints. But a new platform being built by the Hospital La Croix-Rousse (HCL) in Lyon, France could potentially return results in mere minutes.

The hospital’s research chief compares the process to a classic breathalyzer test—fitting given that COVID is a largely respiratory illness. “The machine will register the molecules in the exhaled air and then detects the traces of the sickness,” said Christian George in an interview with Reuters.

Just one problem: The machine involved is a beast that weighs in at 350 pounds and costs close to half a million dollars.

It’s a tale of tradeoffs. Versatility, timeliness, accuracy, and cost can have inverse relationships.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee

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