Scientists from the University of Oxford’s Engineering Science Department and the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research (OSCAR) have developed a rapid testing technology for covid-19. 

The research team, led by Professor Zhanfeng Cui and Professor Wei Huang, has developed a new test, based on a technique which is capable of giving results in just half an hour – more than three times faster than the current method. 

The technology only requires a simple heat-block which maintains a constant temperature for RNA reverse transcription and DNA amplification, and the results can be read by the naked eye. 

Shenzhen Luohu People’s Hospital in China has already applied the rapid detection kits on 16 clinic samples, which indicated eight positives and eight negatives.

These cases were confirmed by conventional reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) methods. RT-PCR is a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA methods and other clinical evidence. 

The Oxford scientists are now working to develop an integrated device so that the test can be used at clinics, airports and for home use.  

Commenting on the developments, Huang said: “The beauty of this new test lies in the design of the viral detection. The test has built-in checks to prevent false positives or negatives and the results have been highly accurate.”

Cui, the director of OSCAR, commented: “I am proud of our team that have developed a useful technology and can make a contribution in combating covid-19, and we are very grateful to the [Shenzhen Luohu] hospital’s medical team led by Dr Xizhou Sun, Dr Xiuming Zhang and Dr Dan Xiong for their part in testing this new technology.”

Date published: March 18, 2020

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