Oxford University scientists today announced they had developed a new test for COVID-19, which dramatically cuts down the time it takes to receive results. Academics at the university’s Department of Physics developed the diagnostic test, which can detect the virus in just five minutes. They claim the test retains high levels of accuracy despite the dramatic reduction in testing time, but it won’t become available for some time.
When can you get an < 5-minute coronavirus test?
The Government currently offers two types of coronavirus tests, one for the active virus, and one for antibodies.
Virus tests, which now widely available in the UK, capacity and demand permitting, require people to use a swab to collect fluid from their nose and throat.
They then package the swab and send it off to a laboratory for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
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Results typically take up to two days but can take far longer in some cases.
The Oxford test would return results 288 times quicker, but with no public availability in the UK planned for some time.
According to the University of Oxford, researchers expect the test will not become publicly available until late 2021.
A press release from the university revealed researchers have already started work with Oxford University Innovation (OUI) and “two external business/finance advisors”.
Dr Nicole Robb, a former Royal Society Fellow at the University of Oxford now with Warwick Medical School, said the assay could help distinguish between COVID-19 and other diseases at the height of flu season.
She said: “A significant concern for the upcoming winter months is the unpredictable effects of co-circulation of SARS-CoV-2 with other seasonal respiratory viruses.
“We have shown that our assay (test) can reliably distinguish between different viruses in clinical samples, a development that offers a crucial advantage in the next phase of the pandemic.”
DPhil student Nicolas Shiaelis added the test would allow the UK to conduct more comprehensive mass testing.
She said: “Our test is much faster than other existing diagnostic technologies.
“Viral diagnosis in less than 5 minutes can make mass testing a reality, providing a proactive means to control viral outbreaks.”
Explaining the process behind the latest test, Professor Achilles Kapanidis of Oxford’s Department of Physics said their vassal uses a different method to other tests which gives it a distinct edge.
He said: “Unlike other technologies that detect a delayed antibody response or that require expensive, tedious and time-consuming sample preparation, our method quickly detects intact virus particles; meaning the assay is simple, extremely rapid, and cost-effective.”