As monkeypox infections continue to rise, a new lateral flow test that could detect the disease in humans in just 10 minutes is currently being tested with the help of UK businesses.
The trial is being backed by Derby life science firm SureScreen Diagnostics, Yorkshire-based medical technology provider TestCard and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.
The news comes as The Scottish Government has confirmed it will offer vaccines to high-risk groups.
Earlier this month, two more cases of the contagious disease were detected in Scotland, with a total of 846 confirmed UK cases.
During the pandemic SureScreen was involved in some of the first Covid-19 flow tests to be made in the UK. The monkeypox test uses a small drop of finger-prick blood, and is said to be the first of its kind in Europe, reports Business Live.
The Government has that as of June 22, 2022, there were 846 laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK and it has been declared as a notifiable disease by the UK Health Security Agency, which places the onus on medical and health professionals to alert local health authorities to suspected cases.
The current outbreak has largely occurred among gay and bisexual men, according to the UKHSA.
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It is spread through close contact with an infected person and symptoms can include a high temperature, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen glands, shivering, exhaustion and, usually, later a rash.
It is currently diagnosed by a PCR test with a viral swab taken from a patients’ skin by a clinician, which must then be sent to the laboratory for testing.
SureScreen said its system uses a rapid diagnostic device with a digital reader app that can be done at home.
It said it has the potential to inform clinicians much quicker about the spread of the disease via TestCard’s ClearScreen app and, if successful, the tests could be ready for deployment within a couple of months.
The monkeypox trials are the latest in an ongoing partnership between the three organisations, who worked together on developing lateral flow tests and digital reading applications for Covid-19.
SureScreen said it’s Covid-19 antigen LFTs were the first European tests to pass the validation process in the laboratory by Public Health England last year and, as well being used as part of the UK Government’s rapid testing programme, are being exported to around 60 countries worldwide.
SureScreen Diagnostics director David Campbell said: “We’re extremely grateful to be working with such a great team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ on this ground-breaking work in developing a rapid lateral flow antibody test that can be used to help monitor and understand the spread of monkeypox throughout the UK and further afield.
“We don’t expect monkeypox to be an issue anything like what Covid-19 has been, but as we learned during the early stages of Covid-19 it is critical that quality testing is put in place quickly so we can better understand the nature and spread of the disease.
“This work also demonstrates yet another example of how lateral flow technology can play such a critical part in healthcare across the world outside of Covid-19 and it will help us to improve healthcare in the future.”
Dr Rahul Batra MD, technologies and innovations lead at the Center for Clinical Infection and Diagnostics Research at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “While monkeypox does not spread easily and there is currently not a need for mass community testing, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that emerging infectious diseases require rapid diagnostics development, effective surveillance and health information systems capable of using point of care diagnostic data for rapid and effective interventions.
“Building on the previous successful collaboration with our diagnostics and digital technologies partners SureScreen and TestCard we have been able to quickly develop and begin trialling a new point-of-care test for monkeypox antibodies.
“Our hope is that this test and others like it that we have in development will provide a mechanism to assist clinicians with rapid identification of cases, clusters, and the sources of infection sooner than previously possible, in order to provide optimal clinical care to patients.” and prevent further transmissions.”
SureScreen said anyone who has a new rash with blisters or has been in close or sexual contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox – even if they have still to be tested – in the past three weeks, or who has been to West or Central Africa in the past three weeks, should visit a sexual health clinic.
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