Strep A tests launching in Tesco and pharmacies to help combat winter shortages

Medicine shortages caused chaos amid an outbreak last winter (Newfoundland Diagnostics/PA)
Medicine shortages caused chaos amid an outbreak last winter (Newfoundland Diagnostics/PA)

At-home testing kit firm Newfoundland Diagnostics is launching a range of Strep A tests in Tesco and pharmacy stores nationwide to help head off shortages that caused chaos amid an outbreak last winter.

UK-based Newfoundland said it has secured supplies from manufacturers in Switzerland for up to a million tests, which it estimates is enough for around 30% of the nation’s requirements, or 90% of the at-home testing market.

It comes after a surge in Strep A infections last winter led to antibiotic shortages across the UK.

Infections caused by Strep A, or Group A Streptococcus (GAS), include the skin infection impetigo, scarlet fever and strep throat.

The vast majority of infections are relatively mild, but the bacteria can cause iGas, a life-threatening infection in which the bacteria invades parts of the body such as the blood, deep muscle or lungs.

Last winter, there was a spate of deaths in children caused by iGas.

GPs were under pressure to prescribe antibiotics to concerned parents and a shortage of tests and lengthy waits for results saw doctors hand out prescriptions on a precautionary basis, which compounded issues with medicine supplies, according to Newfoundland.

Unprecedented demand also led to price gouging for Strep A rapid tests, with some pharmacies said to have been charging close to £20 per pack.

Frederick Manduca, co-founder of Newfoundland, said: “We saw first-hand the devastating affect Strep A had on our community last year, so we wanted to make sure we could be part of solving the problem for any outbreaks coming up to winter 2023.

“We are confident that we have more than enough to supply to ensure people across the UK can access affordable at-home Strep A rapid tests easily.”

Newfoundland Diagnostics co-founder Frederick Manduca (Newfoundland Diagnostics/PA)

The test kits are available online at Tesco and in its stores nationwide, as well as with independent pharmacies, Boots counters and in Superdrug.

They will be sold in up to 14,000 stores across the UK, Newfoundland said.

The rapid tests are done through a throat swap, providing results within five minutes, with 97.9% accuracy.

Newfoundland, which was launched during the pandemic to distribute Covid lateral flow tests, struck a deal earlier this year to supply Tesco with tests for Covid and flu and a range of conditions including iron and vitamin D deficiencies, general kidney health, thyroid function, bowel health and cancer, menopause and male fertility, and urinary tract infections.

Mr Manduca said he hopes affordable at-home testing will help alleviate pressure on doctors, especially ahead of new rules coming into force in early 2024 across England allowing patients to obtain some prescription medicines and oral contraception directly from pharmacies without the need for a GP appointment.

Treatments for seven common conditions including earache, sore throat and urinary tract infections will be available without seeing a doctor under plans announced earlier this year by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.