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Coronavirus test kit developed by Norwich scientists could be ready ‘within weeks’

PUBLISHED: 12:49 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:40 20 March 2020

(Inset) Justin O'Grady of the Quadram Institute has said a coronavirus test could be ready

(Inset) Justin O'Grady of the Quadram Institute has said a coronavirus test could be ready "within weeks". Picture: UEA/NNUH

UEA/NNUH

A portable coronavirus test kit being developed in Norwich could be available for use on NHS staff within weeks, a scientist has said.

Dr Justin O’Grady, research group leader at the Quadram Institute in Norwich, has said his team is moving “super quick” to get the tests safely through a pilot stage and onto wards.

The kit, which works from a throat swab sample, is a molecular test to establish if a person currently has Covid-19.

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It could be used in a hospital anteroom, processing 16 samples at a time and displaying the result on a smartphone.

Dr O’Grady said the test kit aims to help self-isolating medical staff to return to work as quickly as possible and ensure those at work are not spreading the virus.

“Most testing, results are taking 24 to 48 hours because they’re tested centrally,” said Dr O’Grady, who is an associate at the University of East Anglia.

“It’s difficult to broadly state the testing time ... but it’ll take at least a day to get results whereas we can get a test result in 50 minutes.”

Dr O’Grady started developing the kit earlier this month with microbiologist Jonathan Edgeworth at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust in London.

It is hoped that a pilot study will begin to test staff at St Thomas’ Hospital by the middle of next week, Dr O’Grady said, with the hospital then to “rapidly make a decision whether that’s working well”.

“We have to move super quick, so we would hope to be implementing this in some way in hospitals in two weeks or so,” he said.

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“We have to be careful of health and safety and we have to be sure we have a test that performs to a certain standard but these are extraordinary times so we would try to do that and get that process validated as quickly as we could.”

He said a semi-skilled healthcare professional would run the tests, and they could be carried out near to patients.

The work is currently being funded by various existing grants within departments, with no official funding at present.


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