Simpler and faster Covid-19 testing: strategies to streamline SARS-CoV-2 molecular assays

February 12, 2021

Panpradist N, Wang Q, Ruth PS, et al.


While RT-qPCR is the current gold standard for SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic testing, it is time-intensive, expensive, and difficult to conduct at the point-of-care and in resource-poor settings. Panpradist and colleagues addressed these limitations by modifying several steps in the assay. RT-PCR reagents were lyophilized to remove the need for creating a master mix and aliquoting liquid to individual reaction tubes. RNA extraction steps were bypassed by adding eluate from the swabbing test tube directly to the RT-PCR reagents. Finally, expensive fluorescence readers for endpoint analysis were replaced with smart phone imaging software. An assay containing lyophilized reagents and eluate directly from the swab reported an analytical sensitivity of 20 copies/reaction, which is within CDC guidelines. Fluorescence imaging from cell phones commonly used across the globe were also found to accurately distinguish between 20 copies/reaction and the negative control. The authors suggest that these strategies can be used to facilitate the workflow of RT-qPCR diagnostics and make this technology more widely accessible.

Panpradist N, Wang Q, Ruth PS, et al. Simpler and faster Covid-19 testing: Strategies to streamline SARS-CoV-2 molecular assays. EBioMedicine 2021; 64: 103236.

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