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COVID19: Cyprus University pioneers speed test

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Cyprus University’s Laboratory of Biotechnology and Molecular Virology headed by Dr Leondios Kostrikis has launched a COVID-19 fast testing programme for its academic community.

UCY has decided to apply a methodology developed by Dr Kostrikis during the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak in 2003 in China and Canada for an ambitious program promising results within two and a half hours.

Virologist Kostrikis applied cutting‐edge technology to develop a novel method for the molecular detection of the SARS coronavirus as well as other SARS‐associated coronaviruses, which was patented in the US in 2010.

Since the onset of COVID‐19 infections, he has been building on this technology to develop a versatile and adaptable platform that through molecular testing will effectively and accurately detect viral strains of Covid‐19 and potentially other infectious agents.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Kostrikis, who is also a Member of the government’s scientific advisory team for COVID‐19, said his pioneering work had not stopped.

“When SARSCoV2 came along we decided to pick from where I had left off with the help of two doctorate students, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot,” said Kostrikis.

He explained that the methodology has been approved by the World Health Organisation, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and a private company certifying medical diagnostic methodologies.

Kostrikis said that for his test to be accredited, his lab was sent blind samples of different viruses and different loads and asked to identify them and their loads.

“The methodology has proven 100% successful when it came to identifying mutations of viruses.”

The program is set up at the University and will be providing free tests for the academic staff and students with the University only paying a few euros for each test, as the methodology is less costly than other procedures.

Kostrikis said at the current stage this is a service that he felt, as a Professor of Virology, he “owed to society”.

“If a big laboratory wants to pick up the ball and run with it, scaling it up, they can do so. Our aim is not to disturb the way testing is being carried out, but rather to supplement it, by carrying out tests for the academic community”.

On the practical side of the program, Dr Kostrikis said members of the university’s academic community wanting to be tested, can do so on a weekday until noon.

“Samples are then sent to our lab with results delivered by 2.30 pm.”

Kostrikis said the winter months will be tougher as people tend to stay in closed areas with other people, which makes things easier for the virus to spread.

He said experts are worried about people coming down with both a seasonal virus and the coronavirus at the same time.

“In Cyprus, it does not usually get really cold until sometime in December, I don’t think we will see too many cases where seasonal viruses will be overlapping with COVID-19.”