Cambridge team develop rapid COVID-19 test for hospital use

A University of Cambridge ‘spin-out’ company has developed a ‘rapid diagnostic test’ for COVID-19.

The test can diagnose COVID-19 in under 90 minutes and is being deployed at Cambridge hospitals.

The aim is to deploy the test nationwide.

The testing machines called ‘SAMBA II’ provide a ‘simple and accurate system’ for the diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2.

SARS-CoV-2 being the virus that causes COVID-19.

The machines will be used at point-of-care to rapidly diagnose patients.

Those who test positive will be directed to specialist wards.

A £2.4million donation from Sir Chris Hohn, a business man and philanthropist will enable the purchase of 100 machines.

The first 10 machines have been acquired by Addenbrooke’s Hospital this week.

The technology ‘looks for tiny traces of genetic material belonging to the virus, amplifies it billions of times chemically and is therefore extremely sensitive in the detection of active infections.’

Dr Helen Lee, CEO of Diagnostics for the Real World who developed the SAMBA II machines said:

“Our goal has always been to make cutting-edge technology so simple and robust that the SAMBA machine can be placed literally anywhere and operated by anyone with minimum training.”

On testing accuracy, 102 patient samples were shown to have 98.7% sensitivity meaning ability to correctly identify positive cases.

Also, the test had 100% specificity, which is the ability to correctly identify negative cases.

The above percentages are in comparison to the Public Health England/NHS test.

The test has now been validated by Public Health England.

As testing on COVID-19 is further rolled out, more questions are beginning to be asked surrounding false negatives.

One commenter on Twitter said:

“I guess whether an appreciable proportion of false negatives is acceptable depends a lot on what you’re using the test for.”

“I think this samba test will be used for clinical decision making in hospital so sensitivity would be problematic whereas pop screening might be different.”

We also reported this morning on a doctor providing insight into testing COVID-19 and misconceptions.

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