Rapid PCR test that checks for Covid, flu and RSV at the same time and gives results in half an hour could be rolled out in NHS this winter
- QuantuMDx launched its Q-POC rapid PCR test to detect coronavirus last year
- Company has upgraded the device’s capabilities to test for Flu A and B, and RSV
- It is in talks with several NHS trust to role out the tests over autumn and winter
A four-in-one rapid test that checks for Covid, two strains of flu and another common winter bug could be rolled out on the NHS.
The test uses PCR technology refined during the Covid pandemic and can detect Covid, Flu A and B, as well as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in 35 minutes.
But unlike Covid PCRs, the samples do not need to be sent to a laboratory for analysis, instead producing a result on the spot.
Other multi-virus tests can take up to four days to deliver a result and often require specialist training to use.
Known as Q-POC, the new device is made by Newcastle-based biotech company QuantuMDx and was partially funded by the Government.
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.
A rapid 35-minute test for two types of flu based on technology developed for Covid has been launched to ease pressures on the health service this winter
QuantuMDx launched its Q-POC rapid PCR test — which is as accurate as a standard PCR — to detect coronavirus last year
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.
Trials by the manufacturer suggest it can detect both flu types and RSV in 100 per cent of patients that are infected, as well as Covid in 93.6 of those who have it.
It correctly identifies negative tests for all people without flu A or Covid, 98.9 per cent of those with flu B and 99.2 per cent of those with RSV.
Some current rapid flu tests have cost the NHS up to £125,000 per machine and take up much more room — although they can process eight samples at once.
Tests machines vary across the NHS, with deals done by individual hospital trusts.
Others take up to two hours for results to turnaround, meaning patients will have to be isolated for longer than necessary.
The Q-POC devices were partially funded by the Government, with a £16million grant given to help its manufacturing programme in the UK.
It has already been approved for use and was launched yesterday, with its rollout in the health service subject to negotiations.
Jonathan O’Halloran, chief executive of QuantuMDx, told MailOnline the new technology could help ease pressures on the health service this winter.
He said: ‘The recent Covid pandemic highlighted the need for rapid high quality PCR panels to accurately diagnose infectious diseases and so I am pleased to announce the launch of this new PCR respiratory panel.
‘With the coming winter likely to bring parallel pressure from these viruses, on-demand rapid accurate PCR testing offered by this new assay on the Q-POC platform has the potential to provide clinicians with an optimum solution for respiratory infection control.’