With cases of the virus rising at unprecedented rates, Universities in Nottingham have supplied 16 testing machines to support the national fight against COVID-19.
The machines, 13 of which were from the five UK campuses at the University of Nottingham, and three from Nottingham Trent University’s Clifton Campus were collected by the British Armed Forces earlier this week. With a total value of £1 million and the ability to together perform an estimated 20,000 tests a day, the machines are a considerable asset to the national struggle against the virus.
The news comes as more than 600 students from the University of Nottingham’s School of Medicine volunteered to help local hospitals and support NHS staff or researchers responding to the requests from the national government. “At this time of unprecedented crisis, the University of Nottingham is committed to supporting our communities, local partners and nation”, declared Professor Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Nottingham. “Already, our researchers, staff and students are working with national government, local hospitals, GP surgeries, Councils and across our communities. The enthusiasm, selflessness and skill of our students and staff has been inspiring to see in action.”
“Taking hours to run and returning results within a day, the tests’ impressive turnover rate is saving lives”
The machines use a technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR, which works by detecting specific genetic material within the virus. Nucleic acid, which holds the virus’ genome, is first extracted from either a swab of the back of the throat, a saliva or a stool sample. Using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, researchers then amplify certain regions of the genome which they can compare to the new coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2. Taking just hours to run and returning results within a day, the tests’ impressive turnover rate is saving lives, and makes the contributions of Nottingham’s academic community an indispensable asset.
“A moment of collaboration and compassion amongst chaos”
When COVID-19 first reached Britain’s shores, fewer than 100 tests a day were being carried out, leaving the country lagging considerably behind its neighbours in detection rates. But following the criticism of countries which have not tested enough from the World Health Organisation’s Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said fervidly, “you cannot fight a fire blindfolded”, the UK’s chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance ordered “a big increase in testing”.
On March 11th NHS England announced it would be scaling up to 10,000 a day, with hopes to increase this to 25,000 within four weeks, calling on local hospital labs to aid the effort. The contribution of machines from the Nottingham universities could therefore not have come at a more crucial moment, with Professor Nigel Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, at Nottingham Trent University noting: “This equipment which is normally used by our researchers will be vital to the national response to COVID-19 and we’re delighted to be working with our friends at the University of Nottingham on this.” A moment of collaboration and compassion amongst chaos; the work of the universities is just one example of people and institutions across the nation coming together in such uncertain times to fight against an evil bigger than us all.