Doctors in the US have found a quicker way to diagnose the coronavirus COVID-19 in patients using CT scans of lungs.
The groundbreaking finding comes after doctors took progressive CT scans of lungs over the course of a week-and-a-half.
The study from a team at Mount Sinai Health System was published today in the journal Radiology.
"If coronavirus should continue to spread and impact the United States or elsewhere more significantly, this study equips radiologists with the knowledge to recognise and more confidently suggest if a patient has COVID-19 or pneumonia due to another cause," co-author Michael Chung said.
"This is necessary for prompt diagnosis for any individual patient (which will lead to more rapid and effective care), but also for patient isolation to prevent the spreading of the highly contagious disease."
But the discovery also shows how the coronavirus does not immediately affect the lungs, making CT lung scans an unreliable rubric for early diagnosis.
CT scans of half the tested coronavirus patients showed no evidence of lung disease within the first two days of symptoms being reported.
For many of the patients, it took six to 12 days for lung disease to fully develop.
The study is based on the CT scans of patients in China, where the disease broke out earlier this year.
COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, often manifests as a common cold, making early diagnosis difficult.
"There are people who are walking around who have no idea they have it," Infectious Diseases professor Nigel McMillan from Griffith University told 9News.
"They'll have no symptoms or very mild symptoms."
The current test for COVID-19 involves taking swabs from the throat or fluid from the lungs.
The mucus is then analysed at public health laboratories.
Doctors in the US are now testing antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19.
The drug was developed to handle Ebola virus, and has since been tested on SARS patients.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that COVID-19 has a fatality rate of two per cent, lower than SARS or MERS, but 20 times higher than influenza.
The expense of coronavirus treatment has been the source of criticism in the United States, after a Miami man was charged A$2100 to be tested.
"How can they expect normal citizens to contribute to eliminating the potential risk of person-to-person spread if hospitals are waiting to charge us $3270 for a simple blood test and a nasal swab?" patient Osmel Azcue told the Miami Herald.
Mr Azcue did not have coronavirus.
State and federal governments in Australia are covering the costs of treating coronavirus for those without Medicare.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/health/doctors-find-quicker-coronavirus-test-method-through-ct-lung-scans/ec5e4744-7bbc-482f-8787-45be590856df