Tuesday, March 28News For London

The latest ‘lateral flow’ Covid-19 tests bring hope for a return to normal

New rapid testing technology for testing coronavirus antigens, known as lateral flow tests, have been rolled out in places like Liverpool for the city’s pilot testing scheme this November, and most recently universities across the country as part of an asymptomatic testing scheme. More lateral flow tests continue to be developed, with the latest tests to enable office workers and industries like construction, to return to normal. 

There is no patent protection against the lateral flow test, which allows different manufactures to work on this technology. This technology has been developed by numerous organisations; similar to the vaccines, groups have been working together.

Some of these new tests are delivered by Healthcare Technology Solutions (HTS) – a healthcare management consultancy and delivery company in the UK, founded and directed by Dr Farhang Daemi. Westminster World spoke to Dr Daemi about the features of the new lateral flow tests his company is rolling out. 

Dr Daemi said: “So the idea is that for a few pounds you can enable people to get on with relatively normal lives. You can test yourself in the morning, if you’re negative you go about your business, then you test yourself in a day or two. In fact, I know offices in the city and other places which are rolling this out.”

One of the major challenges in testing has been the capacity to supply. One factory HTS have been talking with, have the capacity to manufacture a million tests a day; but whether this one million come to the UK depends on a variety of factors like demand and other distribution opportunities globally. 

Dr Daemi added: “What we’re trying to do is get ahead of the game and not to have a repetition of what happened with the PPE back in summer where there was a global scramble. [But] cooperating and making sure that everybody who needs [this test] actually gets access to it.” 

Legally, HTS is currently able to roll out tests to the private sector, enabling businesses to test their staff for onsite or /in-office workdays for less than £10 a test, with a result in no longer than twenty minutes. The NHS’s procurement process of assessing tests is yet to approve these new tests for use, although similar lateral flow tests such as Innova have been rolled out already in cities like Liverpool testing 111,028  residents.

The Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is the current ‘gold standard’ used by the NHS; but it does have sensitivity and specificity issues – Dr Daemi pointed out that the test may pick up virus particles that are no longer infectious. PCR also requires lab resources whilst lateral flow tests don’t.

The lateral flow tests have however received some criticism regarding their sensitivity, particularly when used by non-healthcare personnel. It’s worth mentioning, the tests being put forward by HTS are currently fit to be used by healthcare professionals only. But the PCR test still remains superior; positive results from a lateral flow test needs to be confirmed with a PCR test, so there’s always a trade-off.