Bournemouth University academics are working with staff at Poole Hospital to support and increase diagnostic testing capacity for Covid-19.
A team from the university’s Life Environmental Sciences department are supporting live testing at the hospital, putting in place protocols and preparations to scale up capacity and training volunteers and laboratory staff to undertake diagnostic testing.
The BU team had already sent laboratory equipment – to be used in the testing of Covid-19 – to the hospital, and are now looking to support the national effort to increase testing capacity.
The testing involves the collection of swab samples from patients or hospital staff, extracting the right portion of viral material (called RNA) which will be run through PCR machines.
This work will provide a local solution for the hospital with a rapid turnaround which means results can be received within five hours. It will also provide information about the spread and prevalence of Covid-19 in the local area, and could potentially provide results that academics can use for research around Covid-19.
The work has been led by Dr Anna Mantzouratou, a Lecturer in Human Genetics, and Dr Sarah Buchan, a Lecturer in Immunology, with support from other staff within the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences at BU.
Dr Buchan said: "Together we have been involved with shipping, purchase and setting up of equipment, liaising with other institutes and companies for advice on aspects of the protocols and with a view to long-term availability of reagents, validation and modification of protocols, compliance with Health and Safety, comprehensively trained volunteers, set up a reporting and monitoring system for the NHS and managed workflow of the team.
"This has been a real team effort between the university and the NHS which I think we can all be very proud of. We are currently supporting the NHS in transitioning to a more rapid protocol which should increase throughput."
Dr Mantzouratou said that the testing is currently increasing local capacity by around 15 to 20 per cent, but with a scaled up version and more volunteers and NHS staff trained, this could potentially triple.
She added: "We are hoping to help the hospital testing effort and provide information, expertise and volunteers in order to meet the testing targets but also to create a two-way flow of information and experience between BU and the local NHS sites that can help biomedical research, education and diagnostics throughout this pandemic and beyond. Hopefully, it will create new and lasting collaborations.
“We feel very lucky that our skills are of use; it's unthinkable that we wouldn't offer our support to the NHS at this time, and we are just grateful that we have the right relationships to be able to take the knowledge we have as a team here at BU and apply it at this time of national crisis.”
For more information about Bournemouth University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, visit: https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/students/coronavirus-news