New test devices capable of diagnosing coronavirus within 90 minutes are being used for the first time in a Cambridge hospital.
The portable machines, called Samba II, were developed by a Cambridge University spin-off called Diagnostics for the Real World, and 10 are in use this week at the Edenbrooke Hospital.
The researchers said their tests have been validated by Public Health England and that the devices should be launched in hospitals across the country.
They said the Samba machine is “extremely sensitive” when it comes to detecting active infections, claiming that 98.7% of people with the disease will be correctly identified as positive.
Helen Lee, Managing Director of Diagnostics for the Real World, said, “Our goal has always been to make cutting-edge technology so simple and robust that the Samba machine can be placed literally anywhere and used by anyone with a minimal training. “
Once the nasal and throat swabs have been taken from the patients, the samples will be loaded into the machines, which look for tiny traces of genetic material belonging to the coronavirus.
Read the latest updates: Live coronavirus news
Samba can provide a diagnosis in less than 90 minutes while current tests can take 24 hours or more, the researchers said.
Tests in 102 patient samples showed 98.7% sensitivity (ability to correctly identify positive cases) and 100% specificity (ability to correctly identify negative cases) compared to the current NHS test.
The machines will be used by healthcare professionals as well as other patients suspected of having Covid-19 across the country.
Businessman and philanthropist Sir Chris Hohn is helping to make the test more widely available with a donation of $ 3 million (£ 2.3 million) to purchase 100 machines.
Another 569 people in the UK died from coronavirus, bringing the total to 2,921.
A total of 33,718 people have now tested positive for the virus.
The government has faced increased pressure to increase testing, particularly with Germany already performing around 500,000 tests per week.
Chris Hopson, managing director of NHS Providers, said that an NHS trust can only test three staff members a day due to a lack of swabs.
“The main thing is to understand that it is the swabs and the shortage of reagents that are the problem,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“I was talking to the biggest trust, one of the biggest trusts in the country this morning, which basically wants to test several, several hundred staff, but they really can’t because they have a shortage of reactive.
“So all we’re saying is that trusts will go as fast as possible, but unless we can resolve these shortages of swabs and reagents, there will be a natural limit on the number of tests that we can do. “
Contact our news team by sending us an email to [email protected]
For more stories like this, check out our news page.
Latest news and updates on coronavirus