Sunderland University science department steps in to support NHS in fight against COVID-19

March 31, 2020 @ 16:16 by Richard Dawson

The University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing has stepped up to help provide essential testing equipment that will support the NHS in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

The University has supplied South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with an advanced specialist piece of diagnostic equipment known as Qiagen Rotor-Gene Q, which could help medics carry out testing for COVID-19 more quickly.

Using a technique of testing called Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR), which analyses saliva/swab samples, the machine can amplify tiny samples of genetic material to enable detection of viruses accurately in a matter of hours.

These machines are normally used to teach undergraduate students and for PhD research projects, as well as to carry out fundamental research into cures for cancer, dementia, and serious infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and influenza.

However, with coronavirus cases continuing to rise rapidly across the country and hospitals struggling with limited resources, the University made the decision to pass the machinery over to the NHS in order to help save lives in the battle against COVID-19.

The machine was picked up and transported to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough by the hospital team last week, where it will be used to help test for cases of coronavirus, meaning patients can be diagnosed and treated more quickly.

Dr Adrian Moore, head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, commented: “This equipment, used by our research staff and students, will no doubt support the nation’s testing programme and support NHS staff in the testing of COVID-19.

“The call-out came from Medical Schools UK on behalf of the Government, requesting assistance with equipment which could support in the testing of the virus, alongside equipment to protect staff.

“South Tees NHS Foundation Trust made a request for our PCR machine and we were more than happy to support them.”

Dr Moore also spoke about how other staff at the university were waiting in the wings to help support the NHS, saying: “All our pharmacy staff here are ready to help wherever they can.”

In addition to the new testing equipment, the University announced that 40 student nurses will take up posts across the North East.

The student nurses were due to complete their three-year adult nursing programme this week at the university and will now immediately begin working on the frontline to support medical teams and save lives.

Professor Tony Alabaster, academic dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, said: “This is an unprecedented time for our University staff and students, but we will do all we can to support our regional partners in the NHS at this time of national crisis.”

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