New testing machines that can diagnose coronavirus in less than 90 minutes are being used at a hospital in Cambridge.
Ten of the portable machines, called Samba II, are being used at Addenbrooke’s Hospital this week and are expected to be rolled out to hospitals across the country.
The machines analyse nasal and throat swabs from patients, looking for tiny traces of genetic material belonging to the coronavirus.
They can deliver a diagnosis in less than 90 minutes while current tests can take 24 hours or more, researchers have said.
The development of the machines comes as Professor Paul Cosford, emeritus medical director of Public Health England, admitted that "everybody is frustrated" that Britain hasn’t got to the point it wants to be at in terms of testing yet.
The machines have been developed by a University of Cambridge spin-off company called Diagnostics for the Real World and researchers said their tests have been validated by Public Health England.
They said the Samba machine is “extremely sensitive” when it comes to detecting active infections, adding that 98.7% of people with the disease will be correctly identified as positive cases.
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The Samba machines will be used by healthcare workers as well as other patients suspected of having COVID-19 across the country.
Helen Lee, chief executive of Diagnostics for the Real World, 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.”
Researchers said that tests in 102 patient samples were shown to have 98.7% sensitivity (ability to correctly identify positive cases) and 100% specificity (the ability to correctly identify negative cases) compared with the current NHS test.
Businessman and philanthropist Sir Chris Hohn is helping make the test more widely available with a $3m (£2.3m) donation to enable the purchase of 100 machines.