Scientists in Norwich who helped develop a Covid-19 testing programme are hoping to roll it out to other academic institutions.
The Norwich Testing Initiative (NTI) was developed on the city's research park, and was a collaboration between the Earlham Institute, University of East Anglia, The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals, the John Innes Centre, the Quadram Institute and The Sainsbury Laboratory.
The project was designed to identify the resources, facilities and expertise needed to run a regular testing programme on people not displaying symptoms.
The Office for National Statistics has estimated that as many as 80% of cases are asymptomatic or presymptomatic. it was hoped the NTI would help keep prevent rapid virus spread.
The evidence so far suggests that younger people are far less likely to show symptoms when infected with the virus. This makes university campuses an ideal place to establish regular testing.
Under the pilot scheme volunteers were asked to use nose and throat swabs twice a week from home, and drop off samples at special collection points. These were then analysed at the lab at Earlham Institute with the results turned round within 24 hours.
It also enlisted the help of the UEA’s School of Computing Sciences to develop a secure web app which was to manage participant sign-ups, assign time slots for returning samples, and to return negative or inconclusive test results.
Now, having evaluated the pilot programme, The Earlham Institute is hoping other institutions will utilise its work to set up their own programme of testing and that it can help target testing in response to localised outbreaks of coronavirus.