A point of care test that provides results in 10 minutes could provide an effective triage tool in hospitals for patients showing symptoms of COVID-19, a new trial by the University of Southampton’s Faculty of Medicine has shown.
Management of the COVID-19 pandemic has been hampered by delays associated with the standard PCR test which requires samples to be sent to a laboratory, with results not being available until one or two days later. This leads to poor patient flow and increases the risk of transmission within the hospital if negative patients are exposed to patients with COVID-19.
The FebriDx® Point-of-Care Test device detects proteins made in the body in response to viral and bacterial infections and has previously been used in GP surgeries to rapidly identify patients infected with respiratory viruses such as such as influenza and Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) but this is the first time its effectiveness at detecting patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus, (which causes COVID-1), has been evaluated.
In the trial led by Dr Tristan Clark, 248 patients admitted to Southampton General Hospital with symptoms of COVID19 were tested using a PCR test and also with the FebriDx device. 118 patients tested positive using the PCR test, 110 of these also tested positive for a viral infection with the FebriDx test – a sensitivity of 93%. Results from FebriDx were available in 10 mins compared to an average of 23.4 hours for PCR tests carried out in a laboratory.
The test works in a similar way to a home pregnancy kit, using a simple hand held disposable device. A drop of blood from a finger prick is added to one end of the device and is pushed down by reagents. The test detects 2 protein markers of infection in the blood and indicates whether the patient has an infection and whether the infection is viral (a red line is present)
In a hospital triage setting, this could reduce infections within hospital by isolating patients with COVID-19 symptoms who test positive for a viral infection.
Talking about the results, Dr Clark of the University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton, said: “We tested the FebriDx device during the first wave of the pandemic and it proved to be very fast and accurate in identifying patients infected with COVID-19- around 24 hours before the laboratory results were available Whilst is detects an antiviral host response rather than the virus itself, it can rapidly identify those patients who do and do not have viral infection allowing hospitals to rapidly institute appropriate infection control measures.
“As a low cost device it has the potential to be a rapidly deployed as a front line triage tool in hospitals and urgent care centres.”
The results of the trial have been published in the Journal of Infection.