RESEARCHERS at the University of South Wales (USW) have developed a new test for coronavirus which, if successful, could lead to wider testing with much faster results.

The new USW test – developed in partnership with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board – was trialled last week on NHS staff with coronavirus symptoms.

“The really exciting thing is the potential for this technology to be used even wider than with health care workers," USW researcher Emma Hayhurst said. "Our test could be used to help ramp up large scale community testing, running potentially hundreds of samples a day in our lab alone, with a much shorter turnaround time that the current method."


The test could also be used in other care settings, she added.

Dr Hayhurst and her colleague Jeroen Nieuwland developed the test in little over one week by adapting a technique they had been developing since 2016 for the diagnosis of urinary tract infections.

“It was designed to be a simple, quick and cost effective test, which is suitable for the diagnosis of a range of infections, so our work over the last few years has enabled us to quickly switch it to detect the underlying virus for Covid-19," Dr Nieuwland said.

And USW said the test's initial evaluation had shown promising signs so far.

Over the past week the accuracy of the new test was checked. A number of NHS staff members who reported having Covid-19 symptoms were asked to provide two swabs – one for the accredited Public Health Wales test and one for the new USW test – to confirm the accuracy and performance of the underlying molecular technology.

The preliminary results suggest "a strong correlation" between the tests, USW said.

Once the initial evaluation, due to run until this weekend, has concluded, the team will be moving on to optimise their test for use at point of care.

The team already have already developed a prototype device which costs less than £100 to manufacture. This means that an affordable, mobile testing and analysis kit could shortly be available, allowing results to be available in just 20-30 minutes.

Professor Kelechi Nnoaham, the Covid-19 incident director at Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board, said he hoped the new test would be "a real game changer for our approach to testing".