A "game changing" new swab test has been designed which can detect Covid-19 in less than 20 minutes.
The nose and throat swab test can deliver a "robust and reliable" response on whether a patient has the coronavirus.
Scientists hope the discovery could help speed up Britain’s under-pressure testing regime by stopping the laboratory backlog.
They say it could be used in schools, airports, offices and elsewhere across the country.
It comes amid fears of extreme strain on the NHS this winter and families having to spend winter holidays isolated apart.
Stephen Bustin, professor of molecular medicine at Anglia Ruskin University, designed the test which can get the samples in two or three minutes and find a result within 15 minutes.
It detects three viral targets – making it more reliable than other tests that look at just one – and was 100% accurate in almost 30 patient samples taken.
The test, called Cov2-ID also detects viral load – the amount of virus present in each patient.
Professor Bustin said: "A patient could feasibly take our test, wait in isolation, and receive results in less than 20 minutes.
"This would in turn prevent the laboratory backlog that is currently hampering efforts to stop the virus circulating in our community."
He said the test is “robust, sensitive and is optimised for a rapid protocol”, which provides “the opportunity for high throughput, multiplex viral detection with the potential to quantify viral load”.
The professor went on: ”Its design minimises the likelihood of assay failure causing false negative test results and its robustness provides a promise for its further development as an extreme polymerase chain reaction assay for use with point of care devices."
The test, which has been submitted for peer-review in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, is said to be both fast and simple to carry out.
And it is hoped it could be used in schools, GP surgeries, offices, airports and across the NHS.
Prof Bustin added: "Unfortunately, the existing tests available for Covid-19 are inadequate for testing and monitoring populations for viral spread.
"The tests not only need to identify who has the virus, but they need to work quickly enough to stop them passing it on."
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