Scientists identify Covid-19 testing method that delivers result in 25 minutes

Coronavirus test results could be ready in just 25 minutes through a method identified by scientists.

A team of academic clinicians from King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust identified the novel method “LAMP” which can produce results in under 30 minutes.

They say it could help improve patient services in the wider community.

The researchers piloted the test in a south London NHS care home with a Covid-19 outbreak, comparing it to standard tests using PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction).

Led by Dr Claire Steves from King’s College London, they found LAMP nasal swab testing was fast, easy to use and worked on a par to these currently used methods.

It accurately identified 80% of cases detected by standard methods and identified a further three positive cases. Eight further cases were negative using both methods.

The method has previously been used in tuberculosis and norovirus outbreaks away from centralised large-scale laboratories and without the need for skilled technicians.

LAMP stands for Loop mediated isothermal AMPlification and uses magnetic bead capture of genetic code and a key identifier gene of SARS-CoV-2 to enable the testing to have such a quick turnaround.

The scientists believe this method has two key advantages – how fast it is at the point of care, critical to stemming outbreaks in facilities where lots of people live together, such as in care homes, hostels, prisons and also hospitals.

And it uses dry swabs, which could be useful if supply of media and reagents used in PCR methods become short during the pandemic.

The small pilot study also revealed that a number of the patients suffering from Covid-19 developed hypothermia, a temperature less than 36C, as an early symptom.

Dr Marc Osterdahl, specialist registrar in medicine for older people Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Hypothermia was a notable clinical sign for patients with Covid-19 in this patient group.

“More work is needed to understand when we should suspect possible Covid in more dependent individuals.”

Dr Steves said: “A cost effective and efficient diagnostic tool would be a game changer in current testing getting quicker results to the point of care.

“This is a small real-world study, but we hope it will stimulate more interest and evaluation of this testing solution.”

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