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  • Test holds Potential for Roll-out to Medical Labs

Test holds Potential for Roll-out to Medical Labs

Jan 13 2021 Read 104 Times

University of Birmingham researchers have developed a Covid-19 test that reduces testing time from 30 minutes to less than five and which they believe is also sufficiently sensitive for delivering accurate results.  It does not require samples to be treated at high temperatures and it can be performed using standard laboratory equipment, making it readily deployable.

In a preprint paper(1) the researchers demonstrate the rapidity and sensitivity of their method using patient sample RNA provided by Public Health England. 

Professor Tim Dafforn from the University’s School of Biosciences commented: “We have designed a new method for testing that combines the ease of use and speed of lateral flow testing with the inherent sensitivity of an RNA test.  It features reagents that can be used in existing point of care devices and meets the need for testing in high throughput, near-patient, settings where people may be waiting in line for their results.” 

The new Birmingham test simplifies the two-step PCR method most commonly used on viral RNA by using an alternative amplification method called EXPAR (Exponential Amplification Reaction) using very short, single strands of DNA for the replication process. University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application for this method. Patent Application has been filed for.

Professor Jim Tucker, from the University’s School of Chemistry says: “The EXPAR technique has been tried and tested over several years, but we’ve been able to apply it in a new way to detect COVID-19. This is an extremely promising approach to developing a rapid, accurate test which could increase NHS testing capability by up to five times.” In the long-term, the use of the EXPAR technology is expected to extend to other RNA-based viruses and infectious agents such as bacteria, as well as other diseases including cancer.  

The research is funded by a BBSRC doctoral training scheme, the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP). The team are currently applying for funding from UK Research and Innovation to develop the test for NHS laboratories.

(1) Published on MedRxiv

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