Rapid £10 coronavirus ‘bubble test’ launched for groups of up to 10 people

A rapid £10 coronavirus test that can be used on “bubbles” of up to 10 people at once has been launched for British consumers.

The test from DnaNudge, an Imperial College London spinout company, is available for people without Covid-19 symptoms and is able to return results in 90 minutes.

DnaNudge said it is now open for online bookings for the test at its store in London’s Covent Garden.

A postal at-home service is due to be launched across the UK “within weeks”, the company added.

A consultant using DnaNudge’s rapid coronavirus test
A consultant using DnaNudge’s rapid coronavirus test (DnaNudge/PA)

The Covid Bubble Test uses reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) technology, with another version, CovidNudge, already being rolled out in the NHS.

Its process involves collecting nasal and throat swabs from patients and placing them on to a cartridge which goes into a shoebox-sized machine known as a NudgeBox for analysis.

The device then looks for traces of genetic material belonging to the coronavirus.

DnaNudge said up to 10 people in a work, friends, family or other close contact bubble can be tested at the same time on the same cartridge, at a cost of £10 per person.

If a positive result is detected for a pool, swabs from each individual kept from the initial sample collection are processed to identify the positive case, or cases, within a bubble.

The company said it had successfully used the method to test up to 40 people at the same time in some cases, including for the London Symphony Orchestra.

In August, the UK Government placed a £161 million order for 5.8 million cartridges and 5,000 NudgeBox machines.

The CovidNudge test’s portable design means it can be performed by a patient’s bedside, without requiring the use of a laboratory.

DnaNudge chief executive and co-founder regius professor Chris Toumazou said the company had worked “tirelessly” to develop a test that was “successfully boosting the country’s rapid testing capacity and helping to improve patient and staff safety right across the NHS”.

He added: “By making this transformative test more widely accessible, at very low cost, our aim is to help improve the detection of asymptomatic yet infectious individuals and to support the huge effort to bring this virus under control and move us all forwards toward safety and a return to normality as soon as we possibly can.”

Findings published in the journal Lancet Microbe in September showed the CovidNudge test to have more than 94% sensitivity (the ability to correctly identify positive cases) and 100% specificity (the ability to correctly identify negative cases).

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