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New Test Developed with Simplified Buffer Formations Enables Fast, Cheap and Accurate COVID-19 Diagnosis

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 24 Sep 2020
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Image: Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have developed methods that completely circumvent the RNA-extraction procedure (Photo courtesy of Karolinska Institutet)
Image: Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have developed methods that completely circumvent the RNA-extraction procedure (Photo courtesy of Karolinska Institutet)
A new method developed for fast, cheap, yet accurate testing for COVID-19 infection simplifies and frees the testing from expensive reaction steps, enabling upscaling of the diagnostics and making it particularly attractive for places and situations with limited resources, for repeated testing and for moving resources from expensive diagnostics to other parts of the care chain.

Established diagnostic tests for COVID-19 are based on the detection of viral RNA in patient samples, such as nasal and throat swabs, from which RNA molecules must then be extracted and purified. RNA purification constitutes a major bottleneck for the testing process, requiring a great deal of equipment and logistics as well as expensive chemical compounds. Making the current methods simpler without markedly compromising their accuracy means that more and faster testing can be carried out, which would help to reduce the rate of transmission and facilitate earlier-stage care.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) have developed methods that completely circumvent the RNA-extraction procedure, so that once the patient sample has been inactivated by means of heating, rendering the virus particles no longer infectious, it can pass straight to the diagnostic reaction that detects the presence of the virus. According to the researchers, the most important keys to the method's success are both the above virus inactivation procedure and a new formulation of the solution used to collect and transport the sample material taken from the patients.

“By replacing the collection buffer with simple and inexpensive buffer formulations, we can enable viral detection with high sensitivity directly from the original clinical sample, without any intermediate steps,” said principal investigator Björn Reinius, research leader at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet. “Thanks to the low cost and the simplicity of the method, it becomes a particularly attractive option at sites and in situations with limited resources but a pressing need to test for COVID-19.”

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