Health tech firm Vatic is launching an on-the-spot-result saliva test to identify current COVID-19 infections, as well as who is infectious and can pass on the virus.
A swab is used to collect saliva from inside of the user’s cheek and pooled saliva under the tongue. The saliva from the swab is then mixed with an ‘extraction buffer’ in a tube and drops of the resulting solution are released on to the lateral flow device.
Paired with an app, the technology will provide documented proof of a negative result or non-infectious status. The user scans their test result and the app will log whether the user is infectious or not and the time of test.
The test will be ‘CE Marked’ for safety assurance and available to buy in January.
WHY IT MATTERS
The KnowNow COVID-19 test claims to be unlike other lateral flow tests because it looks for the spike protein on the surface of the virus and detects the virus by mimicking the properties of a human cell, ‘tricking’ the virus into reacting with it, and thereby displaying a measure of infectivity.
The test is specifically developed to use saliva rather than nasopharyngeal or nasal swabs and provides results in 15 minutes without the need for additional equipment.
Vatic say it is deployable as a frontline screening tool that can detect infection in symptom-free people and has the ability to identify infectious people early.
Alex Sheppard, CEO at Vatic told MobiHealthNews: «The three social activity areas that will benefit most are: workplace – logistics, manufacturing, food supply and key workers; travel – airport screening for travel and test to release protocols; and events, once we are past the lockdown period – whether industry or culture to unlock safe spaces for gatherings.
«In the future, with an additional regulatory approval, self-testing could be available online/ in retail to empower more people to know their infectiousness status through regularly screening themselves.»
THE LARGER CONTEXT
As new cases of the coronavirus variant continue to rise rapidly, chief medical officer for England, Professor, Chris Whitty told BBC Breakfast that the next few weeks will be «the worst» of the pandemic for the NHS.
Despite 2.4 million vaccines being administered to two million people in the UK, during a visit to a vaccine centre in Bristol today, prime minister, Boris Johnson stressed that the vaccine programme shouldn’t breed complacency and that following the existing rules is more important than tightening them.
Testing also still remains an integral part of containing the virus; a COVID-19 test management software launched for UK schools following the announcement of coronavirus testing for schools and colleges from the first week of January.
ON THE RECORD
Sheppard explained to MobiHealthNews: «[The test is different] in two ways. Firstly, this is the first infectiousness test; the mechanism underpinning the test mimics the means through which the virus interacts with the surface of a human cell in order to detect it – meaning this test is the only one of its kind globally and can identify infectious people before they become a danger to others (often 2/3 days before symptom onset). This highly unusual, differentiated detection method is based on a patent filed in the UK last year.
«Secondly, it‘s saliva-based testing. The test works with a salivary/ mouth swab, meaning it’s minimally invasive and thereby more amenable to regular screening protocols which are essential to restore more normal economic functions. Most other tests need more invasive nasopharyngeal or anterior nasal swabs as the only type of sample that will work.»
Vatic co-founder and chief technology officer, Dr Mona Kab Omir, said: “The more we can encourage and enable regular testing across the population – giving people clarity about whether they are infected (and, critically, infectious), the quicker our lives will start to look more ‘normal’. Where a typical antigen test identifies the presence of harmless viral matter, our test identifies the infectiousness of the people who are tested. Significantly, the detection methodology underpinning the test is immune to potential mutation of the virus in the future, unlike tests based on antibodies.”