A new 15-minute test that detects whether or not a subject is infectious with Covid-19 is undergoing final trials and ready for commercial rollout.
Developed by Iceni Diagnostics, the technology involves a lateral flow test that detects the virus’s interaction with sugars around human cells.
This method of testing is not only rapid and accurate, but should continue to work just as effectively even if the virus mutates.
The technology is the brainchild of Professor Rob Field, a glycoscientist currently working at Manchester Institute of Biotechnology and who developed the underlying science for the test at the University of East Anglia.
“Respiratory viruses invade the body through cells in the airways and lungs,” Professor Field explained back in April, while the prototype test was still at an early stage. “These cells are covered in a coat of sugar chains, known as glycans, which are used for normal function of human tissues. Viruses can utilise these glycans as part of the infection process.
“Current Covid-19 tests are largely based on PCR [polymerase chain reaction] that requires a laboratory setting for analysis and relies on prior knowledge of the viral genetic code. This code can change as the virus evolves, potentially limiting the effectiveness of the test. The Iceni Diagnostics approach uses glycan recognition, which is unaffected by seasonal variation in the genetic code, and can be offered as a handheld home or field-based test.”
According to Iceni, the low-cost 15-minute test requires no specialist equipment or training. The technology is currently undergoing trials at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital Laboratories and is undergoing further evaluation at Cambridge Clinical Laboratories (CCL). Testing at Dstl’s Porton Down facility has also been commissioned by Public Health England.
“We believe this technology could change the way we tackle Covid,” said Professor Field. “Where we can quickly tell who is infectious, we can make much better decisions about whether we go to work, school or university and more efficiently manage quarantine periods following international travel.”
Iceni is taking commercial orders for its tests now, with production underway at a manufacturer in South Wales. The company is also working with partners in the US to bring the test to market there.