'Breakthrough' Covid-19 test being piloted in Hampshire

A new test for Covid-19, developed in the South East, has been described as a 'breakthrough' as it gets results in just a few minutes.

The Government says testing for the virus is key to tackling the outbreak but it has faced criticism for not doing it sooner.

The UK is currently testing 14,000 people a day, which is far short of the target of 100,000 that the Government is aiming for.

However, scientists say that scaling up is proving hugely problematic because of a lack of chemical reagents.

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There's been a real supply issue around the country and the world on a lot of the reagents used in the test. We hadn't really anticipated this until we got into the teeth of this outbreak, and so we started looking at new ways we could test that doesn't rely on this supply chain because a lot of the manufacturing is outside the UK."

Stephen Kidd, Clinical Scientist

The new method, developed at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, relies on reagents manufactured in the United Kingdom and it is a lot faster.

It takes between five and 20 minutes, as opposed to the current three hour wait.

So that in itself has benefits as a clinician in getting patients who are positive on the appropriate treatment path earlier. And also in those who are negative in exploring alternative diagnoses. And the second component is we know there can be issues in getting some reagents for some tests. So the ability to have more than one avenue to get a test result is critical for patient care."

Dr Nick Cortes, Consultant microbiologist
Credit: ITV News Meridian

The team is about to start a clinical pilot, to check the results of the new test are consistently accurate.

If it works, within a few weeks, this innovative technique will allow the hospital to diagnose three to four times more patients than they can at the moment.

The team say that if their test works, other NHS Trusts will be given all the data they need to decide if they want to use it too.

Credit: ITV News Meridian