Sep 16, 2020

Ultra-fast Covid test could give results in under a minute

covid-19 test
rapid test
Leila Hawkins
2 min
Ultra-fast Covid test could give results in under a minute
European labs are working on the rapid, affordable testing kit...

A new COVID-19 test could provide accurate results in under a minute, according to its developers. 

The EU-funded consortium CORONADX is developing PATHAG, a test they say will be ultra rapid and suitable for mass screening for the virus. 

The system uses antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19 - that are fixed to microscopic latex beads. If a patient’s sample contains the virus, the antibodies bind to the viral particles and bring the latex beads along, forming a visible clump. This reaction occurs within seconds and can be done on a small, inexpensive paper strip. A positive result will show up as grains on the paper.  

The system is currently being tested on cotton swab samples taken from patients, while the use of saliva samples is under the evaluation of the team, which could eliminate the need to take a swab. It is expected to be ready before the end of 2020. It will at first be available in Denmark for further field testing before it is deployed in other countries. 

Additionally unlike most other tests, it will be non-commercial, with each test costing around €1 to produce. 

CORONADX is formed by eight partners in Austria, China, Denmark, Italy and Sweden. It was launched in April 2020 and is being funded by the European Commission as an emergency response to the pandemic. 

As well as PATHAG, the consortium is working on two other types of rapid test based on different cutting-edge technologies, to be used in mobile clinics and community centres. As with PATHAG, they won’t require samples to be sent to a lab and can be administered with little to no training. 

Hans-Christian Slotved, whose team at the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) in Copenhagen is part of CORONADX, says: “Compared to other systems, PATHAG has the advantage of being faster and cheaper, and does not require any special equipment. We want to be able to tell people whether they test positive or not in a matter of minutes.  

Anders Wolff, professor at the Technical University of Denmark and scientific coordinator of the CORONADX consortium, added: “With the reopening of schools and activities, mass monitoring with fast and affordable tests becomes paramount. Our three systems will save time and ease pressure on laboratories, which we badly need during a pandemic."

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Jun 15, 2021

 NHS trials test that predicts sepsis 3 days in advance 

2 min
Queen Alexandra Hospital is trialling a new sepsis test by Presymptom Health that uses machine learning to detect the onset of the disease

A new test that can predict sepsis before the patient develops symptoms is being trialled at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the south of England. 

Clinicians at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital are leading medical trials of the blood test, which they hope will help them save thousands of lives a year. 

The test is being developed by government spin-out company Presymptom Health, but the research began over 10 years ago at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). This included a study of 4,385 patients and more than 70,000 samples, the largest study of its kind at the time. 

From the samples taken, a clinical biobank and database were generated and then mined using machine learning to identify biomarker signatures that could predict the onset of sepsis. The researchers found they were able to provide an early warning of sepsis up to three days ahead of illness with an accuracy of up to 90%.

Unlike most other tests, Presymptom Health identifies the patient’s response to the disease as opposed to detecting the pathogen. This is an important differentiator, as sepsis occurs as a result of the patient's immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury, which can then cause life-threatening organ dysfunction. 

Worldwide, an estimated 49 million people a year contract sepsis, while in the UK almost two million patients admitted to hospital each year are thought to be at risk of developing the condition. If Presymptom's test is effective, it could save billions of pounds globally and improve clinical outcomes for millions of sepsis patients.

The initial trials at Queen Alexandra Hospital will last 12 months, with two other sites planned to go live this summer. Up to 600 patients admitted to hospital with respiratory tract infections will be given the option to participate in the trial. The data collected will be independently assessed and used to refine and validate the test, which could be available for broader NHS use within two years. 

If successful, this test could also identify sepsis arising from other infections before symptoms appear, which could potentially include future waves of COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Dr Roman Lukaszewski, the lead Dstl scientist behind the innovation, said: “It is incredible to see this test, which we had originally begun to develop to help service personnel survive injury and infection on the front line, is now being used for the wider UK population, including those fighting COVID-19.”

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