Scientists have developed an extremely rapid test for Covid-19 that can detect the virus in less than five minutes. The test was created by researchers from Oxford University and can identify a range of viruses, including influenza and SARS-CoV-2.
Nicolas Shiaelis, who helped develop the test, said: “Our test is much faster than other existing diagnostic technologies; viral diagnosis in less than 5 minutes can make mass testing a reality, providing a proactive means to control viral outbreaks.”
The test works on throat swabs, and involves rapidly labelling virus particles with short fluorescent DNA strands. A microscope is then used to collect images of the sample, before machine-learning software is used to identify whether to not the virus is present in the sample.
Professor Achilles Kapanidis, at Oxford’s Department of Physics, said: “Unlike other technologies that detect a delayed antibody response or that require expensive, tedious and time-consuming sample preparation, our method quickly detects intact virus particles; meaning the assay is simple, extremely rapid, and cost-effective.”
The researchers now plan to develop an integrated device that could be used for rapid testing in sites such as music venues, airports and businesses.
They believe it could be ready to deploy by mid-2021.
Dr Nicole Robb, formally a Royal Society Fellow at the University of Oxford and now at Warwick Medical School, said: “A significant concern for the upcoming winter months is the unpredictable effects of co-circulation of SARS-CoV-2 with other seasonal respiratory viruses; we have shown that our assay can reliably distinguish between different viruses in clinical samples, a development that offers a crucial advantage in the next phase of the pandemic.”