Oxford University scientists develop five-minute covid test

15 October 2020, 14:12

The new test could replace existing testing methods
The new test could replace existing testing methods. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Scientists from Oxford University’s Department of Physics have developed a test that can detect covid-19 and other viruses in less than five minutes.

The throat swab test is able to identify a variety of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 and influenza, according to a small initial study of its efficacy.

Nicolas Shiaelis, from the University of Oxford, 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."

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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."

Professor Achilles Kapanidis, at Oxford’s Department of Physics, says: ‘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.’

Researchers aim to develop a device that will eventually be used for testing public spaces like offices, music venues, and airports.

The test will ready next year and could help manage the pandemic in time for next winter.

Health officials have warned that the world will need to live with the virus even if a vaccine is developed.