Researchers Develop 8-Minute Covid Test as Accurate as PCR

Researchers Develop 8-Minute Covid Test as Accurate as PCR

A new Covid test that is as accurate as a PCR test but faster than as lateral flow test could be rolled out in three months.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have confirmed the speed, accuracy and simplicity of a new, highly sensitive testing method that could be rolled out at airports, venues and anywhere else required.

In a timed trial, the new swab test – known as RTF-EXPAR – identified Covid in under ten minutes, compared to the 42 minutes it took a PCR test to detect the virus in the same sample.

At low levels of virus, results were detected in around 8.75 minutes, while at high concentrations the detection time was just 3.08 minutes, according to the researchers.

The test also worked for low viral levels where current lateral flow tests are less effective.

Professors Tim Dafforn from the School of Biosciences, and Jim Tucker from the School of Chemistry, worked with graduate student Jake Carter, and Professor Andrew Beggs from the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences on the study, which was published this week in the journal of the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Professor Dafforn explained that “an ideal test would be one that is both sufficiently sensitive and speedy – our test, called RTF-EXPAR, achieves this goal.”

He added: “The simplicity and speed of this new test means that it is ideally suited to environments where a rapid answer is required close to need, like airports and entertainment venues.

“An ideal test would be one that is both sufficiently sensitive and speedy – our test, called RTF-EXPAR, achieves this goal” – Tim Dafforn

“The test works with existing instrumentation, meaning that it could conceivably be deployed in these areas in three to six months with some commercial backing,” Professor Dafforn explained.

While the exact cost has not been disclosed, they have promised it will be ‘much cheaper’ than a PCR test.

The fastest tests currently available on the market are rapid lateral flow tests, providing a diagnosis in less than half an hour, but they’re considered too unreliable for use in international travel.

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Fionn Davenport is the editor-in-chief of the ITTN group, including ITTN and ITTN Ireland. He's one of Ireland's best-known travel journalists and writers, with nearly 30 years' experience writing guidebooks for Lonely Planet and others.

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