Tuesday 4 August 2020

Day 141 of self-isolation - Covid-19 testing

University of Oxford Covid-19 testing

The university has spun off a company called Oxford Nanopore, who have developed a fast, scalable testing facility for Covid-19.

Fast means that results are available in 90 minutes. So say goodbye to the two week wait that many Americans are enduring. Scalable means that this is done via a portable device that can analyse up to 2,000 samples per day, or a desktop device that can run 15,000 samples per day.

Large numbers of these machines are being installed by the UK NHS - by next week, the capacity will be half a million tests per week, with millions more to be added this year.

The machines use DNA sequencing, but the operator does not need healthcare training. Is uses a swap or saliva test. But these are not sent to a laboratory for analysis, they are tested on the spot using the GridION or MiniION machines.

Another 90-minute test, also using DNA sequencing, is available from DnaNudge. These "nudgeboxes" can test up to 15 tests per day, and 5000 of these machines will be distributed across the NHS, useful in places where only small numbers of tests are needed.

Once the needs of the UK are satisfied, perhaps we'll be able to export some of these machines to third-world science-starved countries in the grip of a pandemic that they are unable to control.

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