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Rapid Covid-19 testing system trialled in care homes to interrupt transmission


By Awil Mohamoud
Reporter
23 July 2020

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A new rapid Covid-19 testing system that delivers results in under an hour is being tested in care homes, as part of a clinical trial led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

The study, which is said to be the first of its kind in the UK, will see daily rapid testing rolled out to residents, staff and visitors across 25 East London care homes. The machines will be able to process up to 100 samples a day, carried out via nose swabs. 

The clinical trial, which involves the East London Health and Care Partnership, aims to determine ‘how effective rapid daily Covid-19 testing is at reducing rates of infection, hospitalisation and deaths’. 

For comparison, another 25 care homes will receive the standard central laboratory testing once a week.

Professor Jo Martin, QMUL study lead, said: ‘This work has the potential to bring a new rapid Covid-19 testing system to those at highest risk, and help interrupt community transmission. If found to be successful in care homes, it could be very useful in a wide range of settings, helping to make a quick diagnosis and keep an environment free of Covid-19.’

Currently, the ability for care homes to control outbreaks is hindered by limited testing, particularly as it can take days to swab a person, send the sample to a laboratory and receive the results. Using rapid daily testing, care homes can receive results the same day, ensuring they can take quicker action, according to the research team. 

Professor Martin added: ‘By undertaking this study in the diverse East London community, we’re hoping to protect one of the most vulnerable groups in the UK, and the frontline staff who are caring for them.’

Henry Black, chief finance officer at NHS North East London Commissioning Alliance, said: ‘Rapid testing is essential if we are to reduce transmission of the disease in social care settings. 

‘The testing equipment is also portable enough to be used in community situations and we believe it will be a valuable tool in tackling any local outbreaks.’

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