OSAKA - Shimadzu Corp. said Wednesday it aims to develop a testing method that can detect the new coronavirus in one hour, far shorter than the six hours required for current tests, for release by the end of March

The new test will minimize both the time and cost currently required for screening, according to the Japanese precision equipment maker, which plans to produce around 50,000 kits for use per month. The new method utilizes a reagent typically used to screen for norovirus.

The polymerase chain reaction test now widely used to detect the coronavirus requires a throat swab with a Q-tip and takes around six hours for the results to come through after the sample is placed in a specialized machine, although other tests which only take two hours have also been developed.

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The newly developed method is a form of the PCR test, but skips the procedure to take out the DNA from the virus to minimize the time required for analysis, it said.

"With the number of people screened for the virus growing, we have received inquiries from testing companies about the development of a swifter test method," a Shimadzu official in charge of developing the new kit said at a press conference in Kyoto.

"We will endeavor to commercialize the test kit as soon as possible," the official said.

Research facilities and pharmaceutical companies are stepping up development of new testing methods amid the rapid spread of the pneumonia-causing virus originating in China.

Kanagawa Prefecture and the government-backed research institute Riken said last Thursday they have jointly developed a testing method to determine whether an individual is infected or not within 30 minutes.