As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise across the UK the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing is stepping up its support with essential equipment to help in the fight against the pandemic.

It is anticipated that more tests for Covid 19 could be done every day on patients’ samples after the University supplied South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust with an advanced specialist piece of diagnostic equipment.

Using a technique of testing called Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR), which analyses saliva/swab samples, the machine (Qiagen Rotor-Gene Q) can amplify tiny samples of genetic material to enable detection of viruses accurately and in just a few hours.

These machines are normally used at the University for teaching and to carry out fundamental research into cures for cancer, dementia and infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and influenza.

Used by undergraduate students studying Biomedical Sciences, Biopharmaceutical Science, Pharmacy and Medicinal Chemistry students and for PhD research projects, the machine was picked up and transported to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough by the hospital team last week.

Dr Adrian Moore, Head of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, explained: “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. All our pharmacy staff here are ready to help wherever they can.

“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.”

In addition to the Faculty’s support, the University announced that 40 Sunderland student nurses are now taking up posts across the North East at an unprecedented time for the NHS.

The student nurses complete their three-year adult nursing programme this week at the university and immediately begin working on the frontline.

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.

“It has been truly inspiring to see how selfless and supportive our University community has been in supporting our local hospitals, GP surgeries, pharmacists and the wider community.

“We hope the equipment that have been donated this week by the Faculty will go on to save more lives as we tackle this disease.”