Latest News | 28 June 2022

Life sciences firm develops test to detect monkeypox virus

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A new monkeypox lateral flow test, which has been created by life sciences firm SureScreen Diagnostics, is being trialled in London.

The antibody test, which can detect monkeypox infections in humans in just 10 minutes, is being trialled at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

The test has been developed by a research partnership involving the trust, SureScreen and medical technology provider TestCard.

So far, almost 850 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in the UK and it has now 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 antibody test, which is run by using a small drop of finger-prick blood, is believed to be the first of its kind in Europe and has been developed to help contain the spread of the virus and trace its progress across the country more effectively.

David Campbell, a director at SureScreen Diagnostics, 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.”

Monkeypox, which spreads through close contact, is currently diagnosed by a PCR test with a viral swab taken from one or more vesicle or ulcers that appear on patients’ skin by a clinician, which must then be sent to the laboratory for testing.

It can take time for results to come back from laboratory testing, so having a rapid diagnostic device with a digital reader app that can be used next to the patient, and even away from the hospital via community screening, could help inform clinicians much quicker about the spread of the disease.

Building on the back of SureScreen’s 25-year history of expertise in lateral flow testing, the company has been able to develop this latest test in record time to react quickly to the need of clinicians.

If clinical trials at Guy’s and St Thomas’ are successful, the tests could be ready for deployment within a couple of months.

The monkeypox trials are the latest project in an ongoing partnership between the three organisations, who previously worked together on developing lateral flow tests and digital reading applications for Covid-19.

SureScreen’s Covid-19 antigen lateral flow tests 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, they are currently being exported to around 60 countries worldwide.

Mr Campbell said: “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.”

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