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UEA makes new coronavirus test for hundreds more patients a day

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 April 2020 | UPDATED: 08:30 23 April 2020

Norwich Medical School's Dr Rushworth, Dr Rose Davidson and Dr James Smith extracting coronavirus from swabs. Photo: UEA

Norwich Medical School's Dr Rushworth, Dr Rose Davidson and Dr James Smith extracting coronavirus from swabs. Photo: UEA

UEA

Hundreds more people can be tested for coronavirus every day in Norfolk thanks to new kit from the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The coronavirus tests are being carried out at the Bob Champion Research and Education Building. Picture: RG CarterThe coronavirus tests are being carried out at the Bob Champion Research and Education Building. Picture: RG Carter

The UEA’s medical school has designed a new test for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, which can be used 200 times a day, with a potential to reach 500. It was created in less than a month and went into use last week.

The Government pledged to carry out 100,000 tests a day by the end of April but it is struggling to get to 20,000 daily at the moment.

NHS staff have been tested in Norfolk for the last three weeks, but capacity is limited.

Care home staff, meanwhile, cannot get tested at scale locally, with their nearest centres at the moment at Stansted and Ipswich.

The coronavirus test results are returned to the hospital within four hours. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe coronavirus test results are returned to the hospital within four hours. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

But the latest announcement from the UEA will see local testing capacity increase.

Dr Stuart Rushworth, from Norwich Medical School, said it was designed by putting existing technology together.

“Currently we have the potential capacity to do over 5,000 tests which can be increased if required,” he said.

He said that with support of the Earlham Institute and the Quadram Institute the test was developed in three weeks.

“We are here to help and ready to support the hospital during this crisis,” he added. “From the moment we obtain the patient’s sample it takes four hours for us to get the results.”

Dr Rushworth also said the UEA medical school was developing an antibody test which will show whether or not someone has had coronavirus.

“We’re working hard to validate this test because there will be an urgent need for such a test in the next few months,” he said.

Richard Goodwin, chief of division, clinical support services at the NNUH, said: “It has been a privilege to witness the extraordinary collaboration between the teams across the Norwich Research Park in response to the challenge of Covid-19.

“Within 24 hours of the call going out for help for the NHS laboratories we had over 100 volunteers from across the scientific community which is really quite humbling, and the speed with which we have been able to develop, validate and now provide testing for Covid-19 is a powerful testament to the strength of the NHS and academic partners across the Research Park.”


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