SARS-CoV-2: testing for the infectious

In a boost to the daily testing scheme announced by the government, British firm Iceni Diagnostics has developed a solution that can identify whether or not patients are actually infectious.

The new technology reveals if the live intact virus is present, unlike many other rapid tests that react to any viral genetic material or individual proteins.

It means close contacts of people who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 could know within 15 minutes whether they risk spreading the disease to others, helping to cut time spent in quarantine.

Housed in a lateral flow device, the low-cost process requires no specialist equipment or training. Unlike other lateral flow tests the technology works by detecting the virus’s interaction with sugars around human cells. By doing so, the test is expected to perform just as well even if the virus mutates.

As trials of tests for care home visitors are announced in Wales, Iceni is set to trial its technology in care homes too. Cambridge Clinical Laboratories (CCL) – which already carries out PCR COVID testing for homes – will run a clinical evaluation in the coming weeks.

It has been developed by Professor Rob Field (pictured) of the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, and David Russell, both internationally recognised for their contributions to glycoscience.

“We believe this technology could change the way we tackle COVID,” said Professor Field. “Where we can quickly tell who is infectious, we can make much better decisions about whether we go to work, school or university and more efficiently manage quarantine periods following international travel.”

The product is also undergoing trials at Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital Laboratories, and testing at Porton Down has been commissioned by Public Health England.

Iceni is taking commercial orders for its tests now, with production underway at a manufacturer in South Wales. The company is working with partners in the USA to bring the test to market there.

www.icenidiagnostics.com

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