Research to fast-track Covid-19 test for low income countries

Dr Arwyn Edwards in a laboratory at Aberystwyth University

Dr Arwyn Edwards in a laboratory at Aberystwyth University

27 April 2020

Researchers from Aberystwyth University are working on a technique to improve testing for the Coronavirus in low income countries.

At the moment, tests in the UK are conducted by the RT-PCR method which analyses RNA from the virus. These tests have to be held in a laboratory using large and expensive specialist equipment.

A team of researchers under the leadership of Dr Arwyn Edwards, Senior Lecturer in Biology at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, are experimenting with an alternative testing method. The testing method would be suitable in countries where there is limited access to testing infrastructure supply chains and could be conducted without requiring specialist virology facilities.  The research is organised and funded by Centre for International Development Research at the University through the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’ Global Challenges Research Fund.

Speaking about the research, Dr Edwards from Aberystwyth University, said:

“The very nature of a pandemic means it is a challenge for global health. It reveals how everyone’s health is intimately connected, meaning we must respond globally to help keep communities safe.  Where healthcare infrastructure is less developed the burden of COVID-19 will be greatest.  Our work so far with COVID-19 shows the portable tools we have been developing for other projects since 2014 are promising for use in such places.”

The researchers working on the study alongside Dr Arwyn Edwards are Dr Amanda Clare and Professor Luis Mur.  As part of the project, the research is drawing upon the expertise of colleagues across Aberystwyth University, working with established networks of international partners and experts in computational biology and respiratory disease.

This research work is one among a number of projects and contributions Aberystwyth University is making to the fight against Covid-19, including sharing resources, equipment and expertise with the NHS locally and nationally.

Professor Colin McInnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Aberystwyth University added:

“We’re pleased to be able to use the expertise in the University to contribute to the international efforts to tackle Covid-19. We have contributed in a wide variety of ways as part of our commitment to do everything we can to keep our local communities, and indeed, communities across the world safe. We are continuing to discuss with government and other agencies how we can contribute in other ways in these very challenging times.”

The research work began in March and it is expected to be completed within a matter of months.