Covid-19 home test kit with yes or no answer ‘could be available in autumn’

Home testing kits for Covid-19 that can diagnose the disease with a simple yes or no answer could be ready for use by autumn, scientists have said.

The hand-held device, which looks like a home pregnancy test, is being developed by researchers at the University of Manchester.

Unlike other diagnostic tests being used, which look for traces of the genetic material of the virus, the Manchester prototype examines the "chains of sugars" that coat all human cells.

Professor Rob Field, of the University of Manchester, said: "Our existing prototype product for influenza can detect the virus in less than 20 minutes and could be adapted to identify other pathogens such as coronavirus.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

"Respiratory viruses invade the body through cells in the airways and lungs.

"These cells are covered in a coat of sugar chains, known as glycans, which are used for normal function of human tissues.

"Viruses can utilise these glycans as part of the infection process."

He said current Covid-19 tests rely on prior knowledge of the viral genetic code, which can change as the virus evolves and limit the effectiveness of the test.

He added that the prototype instead uses glycan recognition, "which is unaffected by seasonal variation in the genetic code".

Prof Field said: "The way the virus interacts with its glycan receptor makes it seasonally consistent so, even if the virus genetic code mutates, it will still be detected – meaning the Iceni Diagnostics test should remain effective in the longer term."

He and his team are working with spin-out company Iceni Diagnostics to get the new test officially validated for the autumn, ahead of the flu season.

This would be useful to ensure people with seasonal flu are not confused with people having suspected Covid-19, the researchers said.