Dental laboratories to help boost testing capacity
The government has called on dental and veterinary laboratories to join forces with medical labs to boost testing capacity. In a recent press conference, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, unveiled plans to increase testing to 100,000 tests per day by the end of April.
Professor John Newton, from Public Health England, is working with companies and organisations across the country to try and implement a programme that would facilitate mass testing in the coming weeks. Currently, only patients in hospitals and some NHS frontline staff are being tested for coronavirus. The plan is to scale up testing across five pillars, which would enable more NHS staff to get a test, as well as other keyworkers and those who have symptoms in the community and in care homes. The pillars cover both antigen and antibody testing. At present, an accurate antibody test has not yet been discovered, but there are hopes that this will be available in the near future. Antibody tests are usually most reliable 21-28 days after infection.
Currently, Public Health England has access to eight of its own testing labs, in addition to around forty facilities located in NHS hospitals. The initiative will involve working with private firms, universities and research institutions and molecular virology labs to increase testing capacity dramatically. Testing is critical for improving treatment outcomes, for ensuring NHS staff are able to return to work if they are isolating and they don’t have the virus and for providing vital data that will help scientists track the spread and find out more about asymptomatic cases.
As well as developing existing technology, laboratories are also working on new devices. A team has already launched a testing device, which delivers results in 90 minutes, that is being used at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.