A test for COVID-19 which takes only 20 minutes instead of 90 could be in a few weeks, according to scientists at the University of South Wales.
Originally developed to identify urinary tract infections, the test reduces the three-step temperature cycle required by the current method to one.
Dr. Emma Hayhurst of USW said: “The gist of the test is that it is faster, it requires less sample processing and it does not use the same chemical mixture.
“It means that we can get around the current global bottleneck we are facing for chemical reagents by using this different base for chemical reaction. “
The availability of existing test kits and the pace at which tests are performed have become major concerns in recent weeks.
The data suggests that the countries that have done the most testing have had better results at stopping the spread of the virus.
The government’s objective for COVID-19 the tests were 25,000 a day in mid-April and 100,000 a day at the end of the month.
But it was a struggle to achieve these goals.
Figures released by the NHS over the weekend show that 460,437 people were tested at 9 a.m. on April 18.
But the test rate is still only around 21,000 per day.
The engineers at the university also worked on creating a mobile version of the test kit for use at the point of care.
Dr Jeroen Nieuwland said: “We have been developing our diagnostic testing platform for the past few years, so we know it works well for other infections such as urinary tract infections. We have modified this very sensitive and precise technique which is based on molecular technology (LAMP).
“It was designed to be a simple, quick and cost-effective test that is suitable for diagnosing a range of infections, so our work over the past few years has allowed us to quickly change it to detect the underlying virus for COVID- 19. ”
The new test is being evaluated in collaboration with the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Council.
Over the past week, a number of NHS staff members who have reported symptoms have been asked to provide two swabs – one for the accredited Public Health test in Wales and one for the new USW test – to confirm the accuracy and performance of the underlying molecular technology.
The university says the preliminary results suggest a strong correlation between the tests.
After the initial assessment, the team will continue to optimize their test for use at the point of service.
If all goes well, they hope the test will be available “within a few weeks”.