A rapid test can correctly diagnose a coronavirus infection within 90 minutes without the need for a specialized laboratory, say researchers.
The study from Imperial College London showed that “lab-on-a-chip”
The device is already used in eight NHS hospitals to quickly identify patients carrying the virus.
But experts warn that the kit will not be a solution to the obsessed test and tracking program.
The device, developed by the company DnaNudge, can be used by anyone who can take a nose or throat.
The stick is placed in a blue disposable cartridge that contains the chemicals needed for the test.
This in turn is slotted into a shoebox machine to perform the analysis.
The study, published in the Lancet Microbe, compared the results when samples from 386 people received both the DnaNudge and standard laboratory tests.
“The performance was comparable, which is very reassuring when trying to bring in a new technology,” says Prof Graham Cooke of Imperial College London.
“Many tests strike a balance between speed and accuracy, but this test succeeds in achieving both.”
If the laboratory tests said that the patient was free of the virus, so did the rapid test. If the laboratory tests say that the patient had the virus, the rapid test corresponded 94% of the time.
The UK has already ordered 5,000 of the Nudgebox machines and 5.8 million disposable cartridges.
However, there is one major drawback because each box can only handle one test at a time. So in one day, a box could perform about 16 tests.
Prof Cooke said: “They are useful in clinical settings when trying to make a quick decision.”
He described a patient last week who was quickly identified as Covid and began using the drugs dexamethasone and remdesivir.
The tests may be even more useful for hospitals in the future as it is theoretically possible to test for coronavirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (an important reason why young children are hospitalized) at the same time.
However, the capacity issue means that the test cannot solve the problems with the NHS Test and Trace or help with Operation Moonshot and the plans for 10 million tests per day.
Testing 60,000 people in a stadium before a football match would require 60,000 boxes, but it can be useful in smaller venues.
Prof Lawrence Young, who did not participate in the research and from the University of Warwick, said the technology was “innovative”.
He added: “The CovidNudge test can play an important role where real-time decision-making is close to patience, such as screening patients for hospitalization or surgery.
“[However,] this is not the answer to universal mass testing. “
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