Covid: New test can identify whether you’re infected and what strain you’ve got

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The home test – produced by researchers at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and several hospitals in Boston – could cost as little as £4.30. Known as the Minimally Instrumented SHERLOCK (miSHERLOCK), all that you need to make it work is a little bit of spit. It can distinguish between three Covid strains, including then Indian “Delta” variant, within 60 minutes.

Developers are saying it could end up replacing the lab-based PCR tests that take up to two days for an accurate result.

The miSHERLOCK could also be more popular with people as the test doesn’t involve an invasive swab twirling high up in the nostrils.

It’s said to be 96 percent effective when it comes to identifying a Covid infection, and 95 percent effective at identifying uninfected people.

One developer of the miSHERLOCK, Xiao Tan, said: “Our goal was to create an entirely self-contained diagnostic that requires no other equipment.”

So how does it work? Tan explained: “Essentially the patient spits into this device, and then you push down a plunger and you get an answer an hour later.”

MiSHERLOCK works by using CRISPR technology – a gene editing tool – to detect Covid (and the strain) in the saliva.

Co-author and postdoctoral fellow at the Wyss Institute and MIT, Dr Helena de Puig, commented on the invention.

“MiSHERLOCK eliminates the need to transport patient samples to a centralised testing location and greatly simplifies the sample preparation steps,” she said.

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The new device gives “patients and doctors a faster, more accurate picture of individual and community health”, she continued, adding: “Which is critical during an evolving pandemic.”

At present, the component costs £10.80 to assemble, according to the Daily Mail.

But researchers says that this cost could drop down to £4.30 if made at mass scale.

When miSHERLOCK was tested using clinal saliva samples from 27 Covid patients and 21 healthy patients, it was just as accurate as the gold-standard PCR test.

These results were published in the Science Advances journal today, which also demonstrated the miSHERLOCK’s capacity to identify: Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants.

Dr de Puig added: “The ability to detect and track these variants is essential to effective public health.

“But unfortunately, variants are currently diagnosed only by nucleic acid sequencing at specialised epidemiological centres that are scarce even in resource-rich nations.”

This creation hopes to change that, which has so far proven to be effective at identifying Covid and Covid strains.

The latest information on the pandemic in Britain

Based on data recorded on August 6, there has been a decline in the number of people testing positive for Covid.

However, from the same date, there has been a slight increase in the number of patients who have passed away from a Covid infection – 595 to be exact.

Up until August 2, which is the latest Government data available, the number of patients admitted to hospital in the first place has been on the decline.

Nearly 47 million people have now had their first Covid jab; almost 40 million people have been double jabbed.

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