The test identifies changes in DNA caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV),the virus that causes 99% of cervical cancer cases and which can be passed on during sex.
Women could easily collect the samples needed in the comfort of their own home, making the smear test obsolete and likely boosting participation in cervical screening programmes that many would otherwise dread.
Earlier this year, the government launched its first ever campaign to encourage women to attend their cervical smear tests after figures revealed more were skipping the screenings than at any point in the last two decades.
The tests – which can detect the early signs of cervical cancer before the “abnormal cells” become cancerous – are free on the NHS for all women aged between 25 and 64, but many are too nervous to attend.
It is hoped that the development, made at Queen Mary University of London, will see more women getting checked for signs of the disease.