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Instant Covid test in European airports detects viruses in seconds

Air travel is taking a giant step toward normalcy thanks to an Israeli rapid Covid-19 diagnostic test soon to be deployed in European airports. Successfully piloted in two European airports, the portable SpectraLIT device has received CE approval for sale throughout the European Union under the European Medical Devices Directive.

SpectraLIT was developed by Newsight Imaging of Ness Ziona in collaboration with Sheba Medical Center’s ARC Innovation Center. Together they established Virusight Diagnostic to commercialize the inexpensive device.

“As travel restrictions are gradually lifted, innovation and technology will continue to be central to the industry’s recovery,” said Oren Sapir, president and CEO of ICTS Europe, a company that has self-service Sentinel Kiosks in 120 airports in Europe and North America. “We plan to collaborate with ICS to operate the tests. ICTS has experience and a broad presence, while we focus on the technology,” Virusight Marketing Manager Rotem Sorek tells ISRAEL21c. “We think this is a winning combination.”

Accuracy improves constantly

The CE approval is for the first version of the test, which will cost a few dollars. A trained professional will take a swab sample and enter it into the SpectraLIT machine. A unique spectrometer-on-a-chip detects viruses by analyzing light wavelengths in the sample. The artificial intelligence algorithm compares results to data from the “gold standard” chemical PCR test. A positive or negative reading is given within a few seconds.

Sorek says SpectraLIT’s accuracy in clinical trials has been 70-86 percent. “However, since we are using AI, our results will constantly improve as we add data and have access to big data — something that cannot happen in a chemical test.”

The AI algorithm also enables SpectraLIT to distinguish between someone infected with a specific virus from someone infected with a different virus or from a healthy person. Furthermore, the algorithm can be adjusted to detect all variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. “As long as the PCR detects the variant, our algorithm detects it as well,” says Sorek, adding that the company is developing SpectraLIT units programmed to detect other types of pathogens.

Self-service tests coming

Within the next couple of months, pending CE approval, Virusight plans to replace the current version of SpectraLIT with self-service units enabling travelers either to take their own swab samples or to gargle with a special mouthwash and then spit into a tube for analysis. They will be able to pay for the test with a digital token.

Theoretically, SpectraLIT could be deployed at every airport as part of the pre-boarding process, as well as at sites such as museums or amusement parks. Meanwhile, SpectraLIT also is undergoing validation testing at 36 hospitals in North and Latin America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.

“For the moment we chose to focus on Europe, which is quite a large market,” says Sorek. “In parallel, we are preparing an emergency use authorization submission for the FDA, the fastest way to obtain approval for the United States.”

Sorek says the company is “very excited that the SpectraLIT will allow people to resume traveling again” due to its advantages of being mobile, fast, accurate, inexpensive, and adjustable to detect virus variants.