Coronavirus cases being tested in just hours, thanks to health trust’s new system

SUSPECTED coronavirus cases are being tested at a health trust within hours after a team of scientists set up a new process in record time.

The programme at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust means tests for suspected COVID-19 can be completed and results shown within just six hours once in the laboratory.

Biomedical scientists Emma Swindells and Robyn Turnbull have set it up with support from a dedicated team in just one month – something which would normally take around six months.

Emma said: “It means we can detect positive and negative cases very quickly – within hours.

“Without it, cases would be tested in other sites across the region. By performing the test ourselves, this allows clinicians to quickly put patients on the correct pathway.

“This is thanks to the support of so many colleagues and organisations across the region.”

The test is done by a specialist in a fully equipped and accredited laboratory at the University Hospital of North Tees.

It starts with a swab sample taken from deep at the back of the throat or nostril.

This is sent to the virology lab where a biomedical scientist deactivates it in a safety cabinet (making it safe to work with).

They then prepare it for RNA extraction from an automated machine. Once this genome of the virus is removed, the scientist prepares it for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing.

This detects the RNA genome and copies it into DNA, which then multiplies and measures that DNA – showing the amount of virus present in the sample.

Suspected cases are now tested 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Robyn said: “Every single stage of this process has been set up by the team here. This is a fantastic achievement by everyone involved and shows the support we have had not just from this organisation but from experts across the region.

“People may think that once a swab is taken it is a simple process to then get a result, but there are several steps that need to be taken.

“Everyone has pulled together for the benefit of our patients during an unprecedented time.”



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