Scientists at the University of Birmingham, England, are developing a new cheaper and quicker Covid test which they say could be used in airports in as little as three months.
There is currently a lot of controversy about the expense of tests required for travellers arriving and returning to the UK. The PCR tests available cost anything between around £65 to £400, as private clinics vary their prices, making them the highest in Europe. An internal review into the pricing and standards of service from test providers was announced recently, however researchers have developed new faster and cheaper tests which could also help to tackle this issue.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham say their new tests are just as sensitive as a PCR test but can give results in just a few minutes, getting rid of the need for a laboratory. According to the researchers, the tests would be “ideally suited” to airports and could be rolled out in three to six months with commercial backing. They state that their tests, called RTF-EXPAR, use the exponential amplification reaction (EXPAR) method and can detect results in less than 10 minutes, even for low levels of virus. For the latter, results were detected in around 8.75 minutes, while at high concentrations the detection time was just 3.08 minutes. This speedy method would therefore be perfect for places like airports and entertainment venues.
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.Tim Dafforn, professor of biotechnology at the university’s School of Biosciences
Professor Andrew Beggs, from the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences at the Birmingham University, also worked on the study, published in PNAS. He spoke about the low cost of their tests and said they would like to see it rolled out “as soon as possible”. “The analysis showed RTF-EXPAR’s sensitivity is equivalent to quantitative PCR testing, with a positive predictive value of 89%, and a negative predictive value of 93%”, he explained, adding that the full results will be published “in the near future”.