St Vincents Health Group has expressed its support for a breakthrough Australian Covid-19 testing system following extensive trials carried out in two of the health group’s Melbourne aged care facilities in December 2022.

The Sentinel system has been developed by 3DMEDITech partner Avicena and Victoria’s MEDiSwab to counter the severe impact of Covid outbreaks in aged care homes and other vulnerable settings.

The trial results were announced as Federal Government Department of Health and Aged Care data shows the number of Covid cases and deaths in residential aged care remains high compared to the overall Australian community.

For the period of 1 January 2022 to 30 January 2023, COVID-19 is recorded as the cause of death in 6.1 per cent of all deaths in permanent residents in aged care facilities.

On 3 February 2023 there were 1,091 active COVID-19 cases in 198 active outbreaks in residential aged care facilities across Australia. There have been 78 new outbreaks, 23 new resident deaths and 890 combined new resident and staff cases reported since 27 January 2023.

St Vincents Health Group Chief Medical Officer Professor Erwin Loh said the new testing system could potentially alleviate the errors that can occur in self-testing, but also the distress and cost of both RATs and PCRs.

“If proved to be as effective and accurate as it is appearing in their initial trials, this could act not only as an outbreak prevention strategy for COVID-19 but could also save lives by managing existing outbreaks, not only of COVID-19, but also other types of acute respiratory infections.

“The best prevention of outbreaks is the accurate pre-screening of everyone who enters our facilities. This currently relies on RATs and health declarations from our staff and visitors.

“Between 8 and 21 December 2022, two of our Victorian aged care facilities were able to participate in a trial of Avicena’s loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) testing.

“The biggest advantage of the Avicena swab is that it is a minimally invasive oral swabs with results as accurate as some polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, delivered within an hour of collection.

“This pilot study involved pre-screening asymptomatic staff for COVID-19 and tested over 800 staff. The study identified four cases of COVID-19 within our staff, all of whom received a negative RAT result prior to their shift commencing.

“Overall staff cases of COVID-19 at both facilities remained very low, with staff transmission avoided due to this more sensitive pre-screening test.

“Besides being more accurate, the Avicena LAMP test also costs less. The Avicena test is also easier to administer to our residents with cognitive impairments as it is a more familiar oral swab test when compared to a nasal swab,” Professor Loh said.

Professor Loh also noted that the only outbreaks that occurred during the test period were due to asymptomatic visitors entering the facility after receiving negative RAT results. The trial was not able to extend to visitors due to funding restrictions.

3DMEDiTech Chair Toby Hall said that the trials paved the way for broader introduction of the Avicena system across Australian aged care facilities.

“These trials and other independent testing carried out on the Sentinel system in W.A. and the U.K. are showing it be a highly accurate, rapid and cost effective screening solution in vulnerable settings.

“Importantly, the Avicena system also reduces cost, both by mitigating the onset and impact of Covid outbreaks in aged care centres and through providing a cheaper, more effective method of testing to providers.

“A recent report on the sector by StewartBrown showed that it lost over $1.4bn per year in Australia, with seven out of ten facilities operating at a loss.”

“We are already in close discussions with the Victorian Government in regard to expanded trials and application of the Avicena system,” Hall said.

Source: Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care, 3 February 2023

Source: Australian Government, Department of Health & Aged Care, September 2022


About Avicena

Avicena is an award-winning Australian medical technology company that has developed the ground-breaking Sentinel Biosecurity Platform. The Sentinel is an accurate, rapid, and scalable molecular diagnostic instrument capable of detecting diverse pathogens, including COVID-19.

The Sentinel instrument can process more than 90,000 samples daily with data available in under 40 minutes. The instrument is based on a flexible design that enables easy adaptation of the workflow to support screening for pathogens such as COVID-19, dengue, hepatitis B, malaria, and influenza. The Sentinel instrument was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in September 2022.

The trials have demonstrated that the Avicena system is as accurate as PCR, as quick as RAT and detects the presence of pathogens including Covid-19, Influenza, Tuberculosis and additional viral strains at approximately 10% of the cost of pathology.

One diagnostic machine can provide results within 40 minutes, analyse 90,000 samples daily and can be located in any vulnerable setting across Australia.

About MEDiSwab – A 3DMEDiTech Group company

MEDiSwab currently supplies 10% of the national swab stockpile and has a partnership with the Federal Government Department of Health.

Based in Victoria, MEDiSwab manufactured the only Australian made gold standard testing kit produced during the pandemic and now has a sustainable operation in the production and manufacture of sovereign supplies across a range of testing solutions.

MEDiSwab is governed by:

  • Executive Chair Toby Hall – who has recently finished a term of 8 years as CEO of St Vincent’s Health Australia – Australia’s largest for-purpose health organisation. He is a director of Fujitsu APAC advisory board, a Trustee of the Yajillarra foundation and a Director at UNICEF Australia.
  • Patrick Davies – 12 years as CEO of EBOS, Australia’s largest medical supplies distributor. Patrick has various advisory and non-executive director roles with a range of established and emerging medtech and healthcare businesses across Australasia, assisting them with their growth plans.
  • Paul Docherty – Founder and Executive Chair of the BRC Group, one of Australia’s leading Incubator and Accelerator’s. BRC has founded healthcare companies 3DMEDiTech, SmileStyler, SERKEL and MEDiSwab. Prior to founding the BRC Group, Paul was the Founder and CEO of Direct Connect.