Cambridge University unveils revolutionary coronavirus test that takes just 4 hours

The test is to be used on frontline NHS staff, and has been implemented at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Yesterday (9th of April), the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases announced the development of a new form of coronavirus testing that has since been implemented at Addenbrooke’s Hospital to screen NHS frontline staff.

By inactivating the virus at the point of sampling, the ability for the virus to infect others is disabled, enabling more efficient testing to occur in lower grade facilities, since the threat of contamination is thereby much diminished. This alleviates some of the burden placed upon grade three facilities by utilising grade two facilities, allowing for a faster turn over of results.

Indeed, the modified Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test can be processed in just four hours; at least twenty hours quicker than standard testing methods.

Validated against Public Health England regulations, the tests are credited to a collaboration between clinical and occupational health staff at Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) and the University team, headed by Professor Stephen Baker.

Professor Baker asserted: “PCR tests for coronavirus infection are slow because of the safety requirements necessary for handing this potentially lethal virus. Now that we are able to inactivate it, we can dramatically improve the turnaround time from swab to result.”

He continued: “This will be extremely useful in helping test NHS frontline staff and helping clarify whether self-isolating healthcare staff are infected or negative, potentially allowing them to return to work.”

The University team claim to have enough reagents (the chemical substances used to detect the virus) to facilitate the testing of 200 samples a day, 5 times a week, for the next 10 to 12 weeks, with hopes to expand this capacity.

This announcement serves as an optimistic development towards Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s ambitious target of 100,000 daily Covid-19 tests to be conducted in England by the end of the month, and follows the establishment of a new laboratory in Cambridge dedicated to conducting further Coronavirus testing; the result of a tripartite partnership between Cambridge University and the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

Featured edit credit: Tom Wolf, Flikr, Creative Commons License