26 September 2023

Health trial to speed up FIFO COVID tests

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WA Health has announced the trial of a new screening system that is to help detect COVID-19 in the State’s fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce.

In a statement, WA Health said approval had been granted for medical technology company Avicena to undertake regular screening of workers and contractors in the resources industry under the Sentinel Surveillance DETECT study, in collaboration with Curtin University.

WA Health said Sentinel was developed in Western Australia and was a recipient in 2020 of a $500,000 grant to assist in the development of the prototype.

“In 2021, Avicena was awarded a $150,000 grant through the New Industries Fund to help establish a facility for the initial production and development of Sentinel,” it said.

The Minister for Medical Research and Innovation and ICT, Stephen Dawson said the system was designed to rapidly screen up to 4,000 saliva samples an hour, or more than 95,000 samples a day.

“It uses state-of-the-art RT-LAMP chemistry and robotics with accuracy comparable to PCR tests, providing results significantly faster and at a substantially lower cost,” Mr Dawson said.

“It is also more accurate than Rapid Antigen Tests in detecting infectious individuals with lower viral loads within the first days of infection and in asymptomatic patients,” he said.

The Minister said the speed of the system lent itself to large-scale screening, including workers arriving on a mine site, and would provide for more rapid isolation responses from infected individuals.

“The approval of the use of this study provides another asset in combatting the threat of COVID-19 in the WA community,” Mr Dawson said.

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