Coronavirus: New portable testing kit can give results in 50 minutes

Researchers at a UK university have developed a portable smartphone-based kit that sequences genetic material from a throat swab and can detect the presence of coronavirus in just 50 minutes.

26th Mar 2020
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Researchers in the UK have designed a portable smartphone-based coronavirus testing kit, which they say can provide results for COVD-19 in just 50 minutes after taking a throat swab.


Most current tests take 24-48 hours to provide results because they need to be sent to labs, noted the researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, who created the test to be rolled out to test National Health Service (NHS) staff in two weeks.


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The new molecular test could be used to process 16 samples at a time - or up to 384 samples if using a lab-based detection machine, they said.


The test kit aims to help self-isolating medical staff return to work as quickly as possible. And it will also ensure that those at work are not spreading the virus, according to the UEA researchers.


"The idea behind this is that we need to test NHS staff more quickly, so they can stay at work if they are well, or go home if they're a risk to potentially very vulnerable patients," said lead researcher Justin O'Grady, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, which began work on the kit earlier this month.


"We want to move very quickly on this, and hope that it could be rolled out nationally to hospitals in around two weeks," O'Grady said.


The kit works by sequencing the genetic material (RNA) from a throat swab sample using a rapid three-minute RNA extraction to detect the presence of COVID-19.


"The test is simple to use so it could be carried out by a semi-skilled healthcare professional," O'Grady said.


"We hope it could provide additional capacity within the NHS because only those who are definitely ill with COVID-19 would need to self-isolate. And it will help doctors get back to work as quickly as possible once they test negative," he added.


(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

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