Researchers in Australia have developed a new Covid-19 test which can give results in just five minutes.
The prototype, which uses a portable instrument to detect the virus in saliva samples, has been developed by Monash University in Melbourne and the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.
After patients dribble into a sterile container, the portable screening test uses infrared light technology to confirm Covid-19 infections.
Researchers believe the speed and ease of this new test means it has the potential to be used for point-of-care screening at a variety of locations such as airports, sporting venues, universities, schools and hospitals.
The prototype test avoids the discomfort associated with nasopharyngeal swabs,
an advantage that could improve community participation in testing, according to Professor Damian Purcell from the Doherty Institute.
The proof of concept was tested on 29 patients who presented themselves at The Royal Melbourne Hospital with symptoms of Covid-19 and found signatures of the virus in 27 of them.
Professor Bayden Wood, from the Monash University School of Chemistry, said the biggest advantages of the new test include: “the speed and ease with which the test can be performed, its affordability and the reduced risk to both patients and healthcare workers.”.
Professor Wood believes using a modified version of a portable infrared spectrometer could enable rapid screening of 5,000 samples per day per instrument, with the results for each sample being ready in five minutes.
The speed of the results would minimize the delay in determining if quarantine is required, therefore minimising the risk of further spread of infection, said Professor Purcell.
Scientists have said the preliminary research is encouraging and want to see more testing with a larger patient cohort to better understand the proof of concept, according to Monash University.
A similar infrared technique known as Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) spectroscopy has previously been used by Monash researchers to detect malaria and hepatitis.
In the UK alone over 1.7 million tests have been conducted since the start of the pandemic, according to government statistics.
For people without covid symptoms rapid lateral flow tests, which can be done at home or at test sites, have been advised but the government. The test usually involves rubbing a swab over the tonsils and inside the nose, and gives results in 30 minutes. For people with symptoms of the virus though, a PCR test is required, and the results are sent to a lab.