A rapid test for Covid-19 has been developed by scientists at the University of South Wales.
The team also created a portable device that can produce an accurate result in 20-30 minutes without having to return a sample to the laboratory.
The test and device are already being evaluated by the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and could be used in nursing homes in a few weeks.
The board of health said the results “looked excellent” so far.
The University of South Wales (USW) test uses chemicals different from the current accredited test, allowing the university to avoid bottlenecks in the global supply chain.
The news of his possible deployment comes after Prime Minister Mark Drakeford was forced to admit this weekend that the test system was not “good enough” in Wales.
Drakeford said his government will not meet its previous goal of 5,000 tests a day in mid-April.
Recent data shows that less than 1,000 tests per day have been performed by Public Health laboratories in Wales.
Despite this, health officials are looking for other ways to test their staff and the United Steelworkers has worked with Cwm Taf to develop their new test.
Dr. Emma Hayhurst said her team at the university had adapted an existing technique to produce the new test.
“We have been working with molecular technology for about three years to diagnose urinary tract infections,” she said.
“And then obviously, when this global pandemic happened, we realized very quickly that we could adapt the test to detect infection with Covid-19. “
The test involves collecting a nasal swab, which is immediately sealed to reduce cross-contamination or spread of the virus. A machine then examines the swab for traces of the virus’s DNA.
During the evaluation of the new test, NHS staff suspected of having a coronavirus in the Cwm Taf area were asked to provide two swabs – one for the accredited Public Health test in Wales and a second for the new USW test.
This process confirmed the accuracy of the USW test, with the university saying the results suggested a “strong correlation” between the two tests.
The USW team also developed a prototype portable device for swab analysis, enabling mobile testing in places like nursing homes and hospital wards.
Dr. Hayhurst said, “The beauty of our test is that it is really, really suitable for the point of care. [testing], and it’s really exciting because that’s what we’re missing right now in our test response. It requires very little or no sample processing.
“And that doesn’t require sophisticated laboratory equipment. In fact, we made a small prototype device that can potentially be used for the point of service and that costs less than £ 100 to make. “
The device and test are nearing the end of their assessment with the board of health and may soon be deployed in some of its 80 nursing homes.
Board of Health Innovation Director Dr. Tom Powell said it was part of the urgent response to the pandemic.
“This is a truly unique situation and this whole process has been very fast,” he said.
“The results seem to be excellent. We have to do some evaluation work in the next two weeks, but if the funding is granted, we should be able to do it. “
Dr. Powell said the portable test would be used alongside other testing methods.