Scientists Develop COVID-19 Test that Could be Used at Home

Thursday, March 26, 2020 - 00:54

A group of researchers from from the Brunel University London, Lancaster University and the University of Surrey could develop new low-cost, rapid COVID-19 test that could even be used at home.

The test is based on existing technology that has been used in the Philippines for testing viral spread in chickens, but it has been adapted by researchers for use with COVID-19 in humans, Techcrunch reports.

The current system is capable to perform diagnostics at any location with very minimal training. The researchers believe that the device would be operated by ambulatory care professionals, nurses, and biomedical scientists. It would also let people self-isolating test themselves and health care workers test patients to help slow the spread of the pandemic and ease the burden on the NHS.

“Now we have access to multiple genomes (blueprint) of SARS-CoV-2 virus, we can develop reliable molecular assay in a week and have them up and running on the device in three or four weeks,” said Brunel University London’s Professor Wamadeva Balachandran. He added, “We are confident it will respond well, and we rapidly need industrial partners to come on board. It will have a huge impact on the population at large.”

This test would obviously need approval by local health regulatory bodies like the FDA before it goes into active use in any specific geography, but the researchers behind the project are “confident it will respond well,” and say they could even make it available for use “within a few weeks.”

The hardware itself is battery-operated and connects to a smartphone application to display diagnostic results and works with nasal or throat swabs, without requiring that samples be round-tripped to a lab.

This test from U.K. scientists has the advantage of running on inexpensive hardware, with testing capabilities for up to six people at once, which can be deployed in doctor’s offices, hospitals and even potentially workplaces and homes for truly widespread, accessible testing.

This equipment could even potentially be used to detect the virus in asymptomatic individuals who are self-isolating at home, the group notes, which would go a long way to scoping out the portion of the population that’s not currently a priority for other testing methods, but that could provide valuable insight into the true extend of silent, community-based transmission of the coronavirus.


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