Testing for coronavirus infection could become quicker, more convenient and more accurate, following the launch of a multicentre national programme of research that will evaluate how new diagnostic tests perform in hospitals, general practices and care homes.
The COVID-19 National DiagnOstic Research and Evaluation Platform (CONDOR) will create a single national route for evaluating new diagnostic tests in hospitals and in community health care settings. The £1.3 million research programme will bring together experts who are highly experienced in evaluating diagnostic tests and generating the robust evidence required for a test to be used in the NHS.
The research will assess multiple diagnostic tests at once at sites across the country and can be adapted to add in new tests as they become available.
At present, the main test currently used to detect coronavirus infection (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) often involves sending samples away to laboratories, which can take up to 72 hours to provide results.
Co-primary investigator Prof Gail Hayward said: “Right now, there’s a critical gap in how we road-test new diagnostics for COVID-19. By robustly evaluating these diagnostics in health and care settings, the CONDOR programme will help the government and clinicians to understand the real-world accuracy of these tests in patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms in the NHS.”
Prof Hayward continued: “While a new diagnostic test might work well in a lab under controlled conditions, there are many different factors that could make it less accurate when you take that test out of the lab and into the real world.”
This study is one of a number of COVID-19 studies that have been given urgent public health research status by the Department of Health and Social Care, to expedite its delivery in the health and care system.