Scientists develop test that can diagnose Covid-19 in ‘just over an hour’

New testing devices that can diagnose Covid-19 in just over an hour have been developed by scientists.

The Lab-in-Cartridge rapid testing kit designed by DnaNudge, an Imperial College London spinout company, is currently being evaluated by Public Health England.

It involves collecting nasal and throat swabs from patients and placing them on to a “cartridge” which goes into a machine known as NudgeBox for analysis.

The device then looks for traces of genetic material belonging to the coronavirus in the samples in what is known as PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing.

The technology is based on the company’s consumer DNA testing service which maps users’ genetic profile to key nutrition-related health traits.

A team of engineers, led Chris Toumazou, who is chief executive and co-founder of DnaNudge, said the test has shown success in the early stages and so far more than 200 people have been tested in an ongoing trial.

DnaNudge's Covid-19 test
DnaNudge’s Covid-19 test (Imperial College London)

Prof Toumazou said: “Early validation results for our technology in the Covid-19 patient study have been excellent.”

He added: “So far specificity (the ability to correctly identify negative cases) is 100%.

“Excluding invalid swabs and cartridges, sensitivity (the ability to correctly identify negative cases) is in the mid-90s although we think it will get better with more samples.”

The Lab-in-Cartridge test is able to give a diagnosis just over an hour while current tests in centralised labs can take at least a day or longer, the researchers said.

If the evaluation is successful, the devices may be rolled out across the country as part of the drive to meet the Government’s testing targets, the team said, adding that the Department of Health and Social Care has procured more than 10,000 cartridges.