QuantuMDx response: Government workplace testing announcement

8th February 2021 | QuantuMDx Team

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, UK, 7th February 2021.

Statement from Jonathan O’Halloran, Chief Executive Officer, QuantuMDx:

QuantuMDx response government workplace testing
Jonathan O’Halloran

QuantuMDx welcomes the news from the Government announcing a drive to increase workplace testing in sectors open during lockdown, as well as news that lateral flow tests will be manufactured in the UK, at a scale of two million per day. However, diagnostic testing is very complex. It is essential that when pulling together a testing strategy, for a global pandemic, there is the right level of expertise and understanding to get this right.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, testing has been rapidly evolving, demonstrating its central role in outbreak control. Despite the development of vaccines, testing remains, and will continue to be, fundamental to controlling and monitoring the virus for years to come.

Rapid antigen tests – lateral flow tests – used in the right use-case, play a critical role in the management of the pandemic.  They are fast, low cost, easy to use in the community, can be made in the millions per day and importantly do not require a reader device to operate. It has, however, been widely reported that their sensitivity is lower than the ‘gold standard’ PCR tests which are also available. Whilst PCR testing is significantly more accurate, the traditional PCR technology is complex and devices used to run them are expensive. They take a long time to produce a result and have to be run in a laboratory, such as the Lighthouse labs. We believe we need to develop a complementary testing approach where we use a combination of rapid tests, which can also be used for asymptomatic populations, along with LAMP and PCR which are near 100% accurate, so that we can identify a greater number of infections and break the chain of transmission.

This approach to using a number of different testing modalities is called a ‘diagnostic algorithm’. Lateral flow tests will now be made in their millions and at low cost, making them perfect for mass testing the entire population. Their sensitivity (i.e. their ability to detect positive patients) is not as high as PCR, but improves when used regularly, every two or three days. Any positive patients that are picked up and who are asymptomatic, represent a patient that would have been missed by symptomatic PCR testing. These patients will need their positive result confirmed with PCR, and we strongly recommend that all their close contacts be tested with PCR.

It is this algorithm that we believe will help get us out of lockdown and reduce the number of infections in our population. It is widely accepted that rapid turnaround of results is one of the most effective methods of pandemic control for test and trace. This is why lateral flow tests are important. But a game changer in this diagnostic algorithm will be to run the PCR portion of the algorithm in 30 minutes as well. So, we have developed a simplified swab to result PCR device, the Q-POCTM, that can deliver results in under 30 minutes with very high specificity and sensitivity, be used at the point-of-care alongside lateral flow tests and which, ultimately, will further improve the effectiveness of this diagnostic algorithm.

The Q-POCTM was designed for the other pandemic that is affecting the world, antimicrobial resistant infections and is, therefore perfectly suited for the present pandemic. Importantly however, the Q-POCTM is a true diagnostic device that will have use long after SARS-CoV-2 and can be used to improve healthcare for years to come.

We have already learnt a great deal and there has been an unprecedented amount of innovation in this area over the past year. It is vital that we keep using the tests we have access to, in the right use-case scenario, in order to develop a robust testing regime so that we can all return to a normal life in the near-future.

The Q-POCTM device was invented in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is also manufactured in Felixstowe, representing the best of British innovation, and positioning us as leaders not only in vaccine science, but also now in diagnostic science.

Professor Sanjeev Krishna FRCP, ScD, FMedSci, Institute for Infection and Immunity, St. George’s, University of London added: 

We need every weapon we have to bear down on the COVID19 pandemic. Our frontline arms are diagnostic tests that are accurate, easy to use and accessible. These tests are essential for any control and containment measures, and each test type has its own advantages. Combining quick antigen tests with quick and easy to use laboratory grade PCR tests minimises delays to management and the risk of transmission. We need a suite of accurate tests made urgently available to test patients wherever they are.”

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