A new Covid test that will tell sufferers whether they are infectious could form part of the UK’s testing efforts this winter.
Scientists behind the tests hope they can be used to release Covid sufferers who will not be able to pass the virus on.
Vatic, the British start-up behind the tests, has registered them with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MRA) for professional use and is attempting to get approval for the tests to be used at home.
The test works by identifying whether the virus is active, in a similar way to how a flower bud can appear opened or closed.
If the spike in the virus is active, the bud would be open as it would use this to enter human cells. If it is closed, then this means the virus is inactive and the person is not infectious, reports the Telegraph.
The test would be taken just using a swab from the mouth and would produce a result in 15 minutes.
In its clinical trials involving about 1,000 people, no false positives have so far been produced.
Alex Sheppard, a co-founder of Vatic, said the tests were aimed to “restore the liberties and freedoms that were lost for almost two years”.
He added that the tests had been built to be future-proof against mutations. “All of the other antigen tests which are out there, it’s not a question of if but when they’ll stop working,” he said.
“Eventually the tests will need to be redesigned because the virus will have mutated. “Our test will always be able to detect the virus insofar as it will enter human cells through the same mechanism, and that wouldn’t change because if it did, it would be a new virus altogether.”
It comes as the UK faces a surge in demand for Covid tests with many people are coming down with normal cold symptoms.
Official figures from local test sites show that the numbers of swabs being received are the highest since July when there was a surge during the European Championships.
During the period from September 16 to 22 there were 800,000 tests taken place while four weeks before that the figure was a little over 500,000.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading said that it is logical that more testing is happening now in autumn due to generally more bugs similar to Covid being caught.
He told the Telegraph : “Given that the symptoms are similar, it’s reasonable to expect that people will seek out a PCR test, indeed it’s the responsible thing to do as ignoring symptoms would just mean greater spread of the virus, increasing the chance of restrictions being placed on all of our lives.”
It is normal for there to be an increase in common colds and flu symptoms during the autumn and winter and this will have been intensified with people’s immune systems weakened by the lockdown and social distancing.
However the number of tests also coincides with figures showing a rise in Covid cases with 18% more people in England testing positive.
Official Test and Trace figures show 191,771 people tested positive for Covid at least once in the week leading up to 22 September. This is the highest number since the week to September 8.