A rapid four-in-one test that checks for Covid, two strains of flu and another common virus has been approved and could be rolled out on the National Health Service (NHS) by winter.
Using PCR technology the test can detect Covid, Flu A and B, as well as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in 35 minutes. However, unlike Covid PCRs, the samples do not need to be sent to a laboratory for analysis, as it produces a result on the spot.
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Known as Q-POC, the new device is made by Newcastle-based biotech company QuantuMDx and was partially funded by the Government. The company also won multimillion-pound backing from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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The Mail Online reports: Its developer is in talks with several NHS trusts to role out the tests over autumn and winter, when seasonal viruses are expected to resurge.
They can cost up to £20,000 per device, depending on contracts with homes and hospitals.
Q-POC can also be operated by anyone — rather than specially trained staff, like other multi-virus tests.
It is able to test for the three new viruses and Covid — which all have similar symptoms — at the same time.
The device could free up NHS capacity by avoiding putting patients in Covid isolation when they do not have the virus.
NHS rules mean anyone suspected of having that virus still need to be put on a segregated ward.
Also, QuantuMDx said the device can spot if someone has been infected with Covid and flu at the same time — which would put them at four times greater risk of needing a respirator than coronavirus infection alone.
A mid-nasal or a nose and throat sample is taken with a soft swab and mixed in a buffer, it is dispensed into a sealed cassette, which in turn is inserted in the Q-POC.
After 35 minutes later, a separate diagnostic result is given for each of the 4 target diseases
The sample is then tested following the same procedure to PCR tests, which identify certain genetic material to determine whether a virus is present.