New test can detect COVID-19 in 20 minutes

Published: 25 September 2020 at 00:01

A depiction of the COVID-19 virus

World-renowned professor has developed new assay with NHS colleagues

A professor at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has developed a robust, reliable assay, or test, for COVID-19 which returns results in less than 20 minutes. 

Stephen Bustin, Professor of Molecular Medicine at ARU and a leading expert in quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), which is widely used to detect infectious SARS-CoV-2 in cells, has developed the assay, called Cov2-ID, with colleagues at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. 

The test detects three viral targets, making it more reliable than other tests that look at just one, and was 100% accurate in almost 30 patient samples taken. The test also has the potential to detect viral load, which is the amount of the virus present in each patient. 

Cov2-ID has been developed using Professor Bustin’s own MIQE guidelines, which were developed to promote best practice for qPCR assay design and publication, to produce results which are robust, sensitive and fast. It is also designed to minimise the likelihood of a false negative result which may lead to patients unwittingly infecting others.

Full details of Cov2-ID have been unveiled in a pre-print research paper, which has been submitted for peer-review to the journal Nature Scientific Reports

Currently, the UK’s testing system is facing problems because of the length of time it takes to get results back from laboratories, many of which are being inundated with tests to process. The Cov2-ID testing process is both fast and simple to carry out, potentially making it ideal for use in venues such as schools, GP surgeries, offices and airports, as well as across the wider NHS Test and Trace system.

Professor Bustin said:

“Unfortunately, the existing tests available for COVID-19 are inadequate for testing and monitoring populations for viral spread. The tests not only need to identify who has the virus, but they need to work quickly enough to stop them passing it on. 

“A patient could feasibly take our test, wait in isolation, and receive results in less than 20 minutes. This would in turn prevent the laboratory backlog that is currently hampering efforts to stop the virus circulating in our community.” 

Coronavirus research at ARU

We've responded to the coronavirus pandemic by leading research projects into health, wellbeing and interventions. Read more about the work of our Covid-19 Research Group.