A lateral flow test is a simple diagnostic device designed to detect the presence or absence of a target substance in a liquid sample without the need for specialised and costly equipment.
The most commonly recognised type of lateral flow rapid test strip is the pregnancy test.
If there is one red line visible next to the "C" in the KnowNow device test results window, and no line at all next to the "T", then the test result is negative. This indicates that no SARS-CoV-2 antigen has been detected in the sample.
So that the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test is used as effectively as possible, it currently needs to be administered by a trained healthcare professional.
A trained healthcare professional is defined by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the Target Product Profile for Point of Care SARS-CoV-2 Detection Tests as a professional belonging to one of the 10 health and social care professional bodies that are overseen by the Professional Standards Authority. You can find a list of these professions here.
However, since the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test needs just a saliva sample, it is much easier to administer effectively than other similar tests, and still return highly sensitive results. So we are investigating whether other specially-trained, competent individuals could be approved to administer KnowNow tests as well.
We are also in the process of trialling and seeking approval for a variation of the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test which could be administered by individuals themselves.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test has been invented, developed and manufactured in the UK by Senseutics Limited, trading as Vatic.
The mechanism underpinning the KnowNowᵀᴹ test mimics the means through which the virus interacts with the surface of a human cell in order to detect it. As a result, we expect that it will continue to identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus even in the face of further potential mutation in the future, unlike tests based on antibodies.
We have modelled the difference between the Wuhan and 501Y mutations in a recombinant protein model to give us initial analytical evidence that the KnowNow test reacts to these variations of concern. And we are currently carrying out a study on live samples of these and other mutations to gather practical evidence of this.
In fact, we predict that the KnowNowᵀᴹ test may potentially become even more sensitive as the virus mutates to become more infectious. And we will continue to carry out further analyses and studies to support this prediction, and confirm that KnowNow continues to function on newer mutations as they arise.
The adjective "vatic" means "describing or predicting what will happen in the future," and derives directly from the Latin word vates, meaning "seer" or "prophet."
We chose this name as it speaks to our mission to make healthcare more proactive and empowering, through predictive screening for acute disease.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ Test's specificity is 99.9%. In more than 300 negative patient saliva samples, it hasn’t returned a single false positive result.
This is so important for getting life back to normal. We don't want anyone to be stopped from going to work, heading off on holiday or socialising at events, when actually it would be perfectly safe for them to do these things.
Specificity is particularly important when disease prevalence is low and tests are intended to be used at enormous scale. For example, if a test with just a 3% false positive rate is used on one million people per day, that would result in 30,000 people per day being falsely identified as infectious with COVID-19 and being unnecessarily asked to self-isolate.
Receiving a negative result means that the individual tested does not have any live virus in the sample provided and is not currently infectious to others. However, it's important to be aware that they could still be exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus following the test. It could also be possible that the individual tested has already been exposed to the virus 1 or 2 days ago, and they have not yet become infectious to others.
As a result, we recommend that individuals are tested as regularly as possible to keep workplaces and communities safe. Depending on the scenario, we would recommend testing is repeated every 1 to 3 days.
The Limit of Detection (LoD) is the smallest amount of virus in a sample that a given device can consistently detect.
The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine carried out an analytical study of the KnowNowᵀᴹ test, which determined that the LoD is 500 plaque-forming units per millilitre (PFU/ml). Based on accepted models of viral load in disease progression, this very low LoD suggests that the KnowNow test can detect infected people as early as day 3 to 4 of infection. This is before they become highly infectious, and a day or two earlier than most tests available.
In the absence of a single study that compares the LoD of KnowNowᵀᴹ to that of other tests, it is not possible to do a like-for-like comparison of the LoDs of different lateral flow tests determined by different studies. This is because there wouldn't be parity across cell cultures and strains of the virus used in the different studies. Additionally, it's important to consider that what the KnowNowᵀᴹ test detects is fundamentally different from other tests. KnowNowᵀᴹ is a true infectivity test which looks exclusively for the spike protein only present on active SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Whereas other lateral flow tests detect the nucleocapsid protein encapsulated in the centre of the virus, which can be present whether the virus is active or not.
The PFU/ml measure, as used in the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine KnowNowᵀᴹ analytical study, is a measure of only the number of virus particles capable of forming plaques in a given sample - viral particles that are defective or which fail to infect their target cell will not produce a plaque and so are not counted by this measure. No inference can be made about the relationship of PFU to the overall number of viral particles in the sample, since this will differ from sample to sample.
Since the KnowNow test specifically detects infectious viral particles only, an LoD measured in PFU/ml is an informative and appropriate measure. However, for other lateral flow tests which indiscriminately detect active and inactive viral particles, an LoD referencing PFU/ml is not particularly informative or comparable to the KnowNowᵀᴹ LoD. For example, the sample used to determine LoD may have had a very low PFU/ml, but many inactive viral particles which were detected by the test. Ultimately, other lateral flow tests are not true tests for COVID infectivity, they do not detect only infectious virus like the KnowNowᵀᴹ test does.
If you'd like to read more about this subject, we recommend reading this paper. It argues that the "Limit of Detection matters and directly impacts efforts to identify, control, and contain outbreaks during this pandemic" since "higher LoD are likely to miss nonnegligible fractions of infected individuals." It also makes the case that LoD values for tests should be benchmarked against a universal standard and readily available in the public domain to enable like-for-like comparison of SARS-CoV-2 detection methods.
The KnowNowᵀᴹ test will provide a result within 17-18 minutes of an individual arriving for their test.
The process of taking the saliva sample, mixing it with the buffer solution and dropping it onto the KnowNow test device should take a clinical professional no more than 2 to 3 minutes.
It then takes just 15 minutes for the test result to develop in the KnowNow device test results window.
The test result should not be read and interpreted after 60 minutes. If it wasn't possible to read and interpret the results between 15 and 60 minutes after dropping the solution into the sample well, the test should be discarded and the process repeated with another new test and saliva sample.
Vatic was founded in October 2019 by Alex Sheppard and Dr. Mona Kab Omir.
When the first wave of COVID-19 started in the UK in early 2020, our team immediately saw an opportunity to contribute to global efforts to tackle the pandemic, and leveraged work already underway on antigen testing to quickly start developing the KnowNowᵀᴹ Test.