The current pandemic has highlighted the economic and societal need for rapid testing for viruses. Iceni Diagnostics is developing a rapid, accurate test for viral infections that mimics the process that a virus uses to identify its host. It provides a yes/no answer in less than 15 minutes and can be used to detect a range of diseases with minimal training.
Influenza infections are generally specific to a particular species, such as avian flu, swine flu, equine flu. The virus identifies its particular host by the structure of glycans, chains of sugars on the surface of their cells.
As about 90 per cent of viruses use glycan recognition for infection it is applicable to the diagnosis of many diseases.
Glycans for identifying viruses
Dr Simone Dedola, R&D Manager at Iceni Diagnostics comments: “In any infectious disease outbreak, it is important to identify carriers of disease quickly as this is key to controlling the spread of infection.”
One of the priorities for the company is equine flu. An outbreak of this disease last year resulted in the loss of many racing events and millions of pounds of revenue. The availability of a rapid test that could have identified affected horses before they left the stable would have helped to prevent the spread of this disease.
The Iceni Diagnostics test uses a nasal swab to test the horse’s mucus and a colour change in the device indicates the sample is positive.
The unique benefit of the Iceni Diagnostics approach is that it utilises a natural process of infection that has evolved over millions of years and remains stable even when the genetic material in the virus mutates.
This provides a reliable diagnostic that is able to accurately identify the strain of flu.
Iceni Diagnostics was quick to address the need for a test for coronavirus and the company is making good progress towards a test that will identify in minutes if someone is infected, enabling it to be used on the spot to screen for disease.
A key advantage of this technology is that the test kit is inexpensive to produce and can be scaled up, using established manufacture and distribution chains. This would allow a device to be mass-produced to meet the substantial demands for immediate and recurrent coronavirus testing.