New technology can tell if someone is infected on-site in less than 15 minutes, at a much lower cost than PCR. Tests are CE-marked and will also distinguish between COVID-19 and Influenzas A and B.
[UK, October 20, 2020] UK businesses can now purchase COVID-19 rapid antigen kits to test their staff and customers frequently and at a low cost. As the exclusive distributor for the UK, BLOK BioScience provides the hardware, supplies, and expertise to help businesses of any size to get started with their testing programmes.
The first UK pilot took place last Friday, October 16, in the Southwest of England – where 43 people were tested for the virus in a single day at a local gym. After the successful experience, BLOK started taking limited orders for the revolutionary kit.
There is no lack of use cases for the technology. Schools and universities can test more frequently and reduce time away from class awaiting results, saving money with substitute teachers in the process. Care homes can test staff to reduce the risk of the virus entering the premises and reinstate safe visits with screening on the day – increasing quality of life for residents and families. Passengers in train stations and airports can have a streamlined option when departing, or reduce quarantine times when arriving. Film producers can test crew and talent on the day, before entering a set. The possibilities are endless, and rapid antigen tests can be a game changer for many industries.
About the test
The DIAsia test can be performed on-site, and uses immunofluorescence lateral flow technology to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus proteins from a nose or throat swab.
Results take less than 15 minutes, and are delivered by a portable machine that’s about the same size as a shoebox. Depending on the setting, each machine can handle anywhere from 5 to 50 tests per hour. In the near future, BLOK will also offer machines with extended capacity for an even higher throughput.
In addition to the fast turnaround, the tests are highly accurate with a sensitivity (true positive rate) of 94%, and specificity (true negative rate) of 100%. The kit is CE-marked and approved for use in Europe and the UK.
In addition to COVID-19, the manufacturer is combining multiple reagents into a single test cassette that can differentiate between COVID, Influenza A and Influenza B, a very useful distinction to make during the winter season. These tests should be available in the next few weeks.
See it in action
According to the World Health Organisation, testing is a crucial part of the backbone of the global response to COVID-19. It’s only by mass testing the population that we can detect, react, and stay ahead of the virus, potentially saving millions of lives and our economies in the process.
So far, most governments have relied on PCR as the gold standard for testing, planning and setting policy. However, despite the high accuracy, PCR technology hasn’t been great at scaling. The need for a lab leads to high costs, bottlenecks and long wait times to get results.
With the DIAsia rapid antigen tests, organisations can find out if their employees, visitors, or customers are infected in minutes instead of days, allowing them to greatly reduce disruptions in their services. Individual test cost is also substantially lower than PCR, which enables much higher frequency at affordable rates.
Based on an established technology
Rapid antigen tests are well-established and used in the diagnosis of other respiratory pathogens, like the influenza virus. In the United States, the FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for multiple antigen tests that can identify SARS-CoV-2 using the same immunofluorescence lateral flow technology.
In the UK, these tests must be overseen by qualified health professional (like a phlebotomist or nurse) and used for screening/surveillance purposes – PCR tests are still required for official medical diagnostic. BLOK has been liaising with regulatory authorities on the various uses of this instrument in the country.
Frequency is key
Tests taken at low frequency aren’t very useful. A single set of test results paints only a static picture of what the spread looks at a given moment – but not where it’s going. Depending on the use case, this information can be outdated before regular PCR results are out (2-3 days).
To really understand the direction and dynamics of the pandemic, we need to look at these static images in quick succession, like a film reel. It’s not just about testing more widely (although that’s important too), but also more frequently.
The more and the more frequently we test, the more swift and granular can our response be – reducing the reach and scope of lockdowns, which allows non-affected the economy to stay open for longer, and to reopen faster.
Head to our website to find out how to get started with rapid antigen testing.