Germ warfare researchers at the Pentagon’s shadowy advanced projects unit have developed a new coronavirus test that could spot infected patients before they become contagious, originally created to diagnose victims of bioweapons.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says the new test may be capable of identifying infections within 24 hours, some four days prior to any of the test kits currently available, the Guardian reported on Friday. The rapid diagnosis could find carriers well before they show symptoms and become contagious, which typically occurs within two to 14 days after infection.

Initially designed to detect poisoning from biological and chemical weapons, the tests were hastily repurposed after the health crisis erupted late last year. Since they already employed the same polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines used to check standard coronavirus nasal swabs, the tests needed only “a simple tweak” to refocus them to Covid-19, according to Dr Eric Van Gieson, who helped to create the original bioweapons test.

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