Written by Conor Hale
The University of Oxford and its research center in China are launching a new company to develop a rapid COVID-19 test that could cost no more than £20, or about $25 U.S.
“Our test is ideal for use in community or field settings by laypersons and allows immediate decisions to be made,” said Zhanfeng Cui, director of the Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research.
“Immediate applications are: returning to work/education (i.e., schools, universities, companies) and making quarantine decision (e.g. care homes, hospitals, temporary migrants, tourists),” said Cui. “Use of such a test could be crucial to economic recovery globally.”
The simplified viral RNA test is based on RT-LAMP technology, for reverse transcription, loop-mediated isothermal amplification. The method uses less hardware than the PCR-based coronavirus lab tests in widespread use, which can require dozens of cycles of heating and cooling to drive the DNA reactions needed to produce a result. The researchers say their version can be used in the field without specialized equipment or additional scientific training.
“An advantage of using LAMP technology is that it uses different reagents to most laboratory-based PCR tests,” said Monique Andersson, director of microbiology at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which worked to clinically validate the test.
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