Male patient receiving a throat swab from a medical professional

Clinical evaluation confirms accuracy of asymptomatic Covid-19 test

Technical and clinical evaluation conducted by NHS trusts and universities has confirmed RT-LAMP tests to be accurate and sensitive enough to be used for Covid-19 testing, including for asymptomatic cases.

Evaluation showed the RT-LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) test was found to have a sensitivity of 79% and specificity of 100%, meaning they were capable of effectively identifying the cases who are infectious and most likely to transmit the disease.

Among samples with a higher viral load, the sensitivity of the test increased to 94% for saliva and 100% for swabs.

Unlike the commonly used PCR tests, LAMP tests do not require sequential changes of temperature and so test results can be turned around more rapidly.

RT-LAMP tests have been being trialled as part of a strategy to deliver asymptomatic testing, helping identify those who may otherwise have unknowingly spread the virus. Around the country, the tests have been used to test some NHS staff and in asymptomatic testing pilots in Southampton, including at the University of Southampton which has seen 55,000 people tested.

Initial results from these pilot schemes have shown the test to be effective in both identifying positive cases and breaking chains of transmission.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said: “With up to a third of individuals with Covid-19 not displaying symptoms, we are rolling out asymptomatic testing to protect those at highest risk. Most importantly NHS staff who are at the forefront of fighting this virus.

“By broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms and who can infect people unknowingly, we can find positive cases more quickly and break chains of transmission.

“We are using the latest technology to do this, and the country’s leading scientists have rigorously evaluated the LAMP test in the lab and in the field and confirmed its sensitivity for asymptomatic testing.”

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England in NHS Test and Trace, who led the evaluation for NHS Test and Trace said: “We’ve shown through carefully conducted studies that the LAMP test is fast, reliable and easy to use and dependent on testing format can work directly with saliva samples as well as with swabs.

“It has been effective in the pilot study sites and can make a valuable contribution to our overall Covid-19 testing capability.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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