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WATCH: How do covid-19 tests work?

WATCH: How do covid-19 tests work?

Monday 27 April 2020

WATCH: How do covid-19 tests work?

The hospital's lab team has provided a step-by-step guide showing how they process corona virus swab samples on island.

The tests presently used in Jersey are ‘diagnostic’ tests to see if somebody is currently infected with corona virus, and involve taking a swab from inside the nose or throat.

As laboratory manager Victoria Atherton explains, the sample is then taken to the virology department at the hospital where it is tested for signs of the virus' genetic material. 

“It’s my team here at the hospital who have been processing all the covid samples,” she says. “We’re really lucky to have on island testing now.” 

The sample is 'booked' into the hospital's computer records and sent to the 'containment level 3 laboratory.' There, the team runs a polymerase chain reaction (PRC) test to detect whether the virus’s genetic material is present.

The results of the test go “straight from the instrument to the patient’s electronic records” and the patient is informed whether the test was positive or negative.

Testing for corona virus is a key factor in tackling the spread of the disease, with the message “test, test, test” being repeated by the World Health Organisation. Tests are important for both diagnosing individuals, and for understanding how widely the disease is spreading. 


Pictured: 'Diagnostic' tests involve taking a swab of the nose or throat.  

Swab tests, however, are limited to diagnosing active covid-19 infections, and there are still questions about the reliability of results.

The alternative ‘antibody’ test instead aims to determine whether someone has already had the virus by looking for signs of immunity.

These tests involve adding a drop of blood to a device that is similar to a pregnancy test. Instead of detecting pregnancy hormones, the device detects antibodies for coronavirus.

Jersey is now evaluating the reliability of antibody tests supplied to the island, and will decide how the tests could fit into plans for easing lockdown restrictions.  


WATCH: Antibody tests could start this week – but how far can we trust them?

WATCH: Meet the disease detectors... 

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