The 90-minute coronavirus test that’s 94% accurate

The 90-minute coronavirus test that’s 94% accurate: On-the-spot Covid-19 screening that delivers result in less than two hours could transform diagnosis this winter, experts say

  •  The CovidNudge test is a machine the size of a shoebox  and is 94% accurate
  •  The process involves collecting nasal and throat swabs and placing them on to a cartridge which goes into the machine for analysis
  •  The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million testing cartridges, at the cost of about £30 per test

AN ON-THE-SPOT Covid test which delivers a result in 90 minutes could transform diagnosis in NHS hospitals this winter, experts say.

A study published last night revealed the CovidNudge test – a machine the size of a shoebox – does not deliver any ‘false positive’ results, meaning all those who test positive are carrying the virus.

It has a ‘specificity’ of 94 per cent – meaning 6 per cent of those given the all-clear will actually have the virus – but this is far better than the 70 per cent specificity rate seen with the standard Covid test.

The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million testing cartridges, at the cost of about £30 per test. 

The CovidNudge is a machine the size of a shoebox and delivers results in 90 minutes

Eventually the machines could be used in schools, theatres and even private homes. They were used by the London Symphony Orchestra last month to give musicians the all-clear to perform at the Proms.

Some 10,000 people have been tested on the NHS so far, with a major roll-out due in the coming weeks.

The machine, designed by Imperial College London spinout company DnaNudge, is particularly useful for hospitals because it can be used at a patient’s bedside.

Because the turnaround time is so quick, doctors can make rapid treatment decisions without waiting hours or days for laboratory results.

The process involves collecting nasal and throat swabs and placing them on to a cartridge which goes into the machine – called a ‘NudgeBox’ – for analysis.

The device then looks for traces of genetic material belonging to the coronavirus.

Each machine has the ability to process up to 15 tests on the spot each day. Professor Graham Cooke, of Imperial, whose evaluation of the machine was published in the Lancet Microbe journal, said: ‘This test is particularly well suited for clinical settings when you are trying to make a rapid decision for a patient. 

The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million testing cartridges

The NHS has already ordered 5,000 machines and 5.8 million testing cartridges

‘For example, we had a patient from last week who had a new diagnosis of Covid.

‘We were able to get the diagnosis confirmed within two hours of arriving and start remdesivir and dexamethasone [drugs used to treat severe Covid-19] on that basis.’

The test is being used across eight London hospitals and is expected to be rolled out at a national level.

Professor Cooke said there was no practical reason why it could not be used in someone’s home, but for now manufacturing was being targeted at healthcare use.

And while the machine excels at speed, accuracy and ease of use, it is not the answer to the Government’s current testing problems, because each machine can process only one test at a time.

‘It is not the answer if you need millions of tests a day,’ Professor Cooke said.

The team is also modifying the device so the test can simultaneously assess other respiratory diseases.

Dr Bob Klaber, director of strategy at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: ‘Getting accurate results back to clinicians and their patients as quickly as possible makes a huge difference to how we safely manage clinical pathways and we are very much looking forward to rolling this out more widely.’

Professor Chris Toumazou, co-founder of DnaNudge, added: ‘The platform is well suited to testing in primary care and community settings with potential for use in non-healthcare settings such as care homes, schools, transport hubs, offices, and, to help bring the arts back, in theatres and venues.’

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