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Portable Suitcase Mini-Laboratory for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Provides Test Results as Good as PCR Test in Real Time

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 12 Feb 2021
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Image: Portable Suitcase Mini-Laboratory for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2 (Photo courtesy of Dr Ahmed Abd El Wahed)
Image: Portable Suitcase Mini-Laboratory for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2 (Photo courtesy of Dr Ahmed Abd El Wahed)
A portable suitcase mini-laboratory for the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 provides test results that are almost as good as a PCR test and almost in real time, according to new research.

In the first study of the suitcase laboratory at Leipzig University (Leipzig, Germany) in cooperation with several African universities, researchers used genome analysis (RPA method, recombinase polymerase amplification) to detect an infection with SARS-CoV-2 almost in real time, with an accuracy of 94%. The method that will now be used to conduct coronavirus testing has already been successfully evaluated for several other infectious diseases.

The suitcase is a small, mobile laboratory equipped with a diagnostic device, solar power supply, various reagents, some reference RNA extracts and rubber gloves. The compact case could provide rapid coronavirus test results in regions of Africa where testing facilities and medical infrastructure fall far short of European standards. Infected people can thus be identified and isolated more quickly. This is an important and life-saving measure in countries that may have to wait a long time for vaccines, and will contribute to bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control.

For COVID-19 diagnosis, the mobile suitcase lab has already been implemented in Egypt, Ghana, and Senegal, as well as in five other African countries. Results will now be evaluated in further studies. Specifically, the exact performance of the developed SARS-CoV-2 RPA assays will be determined and compared to PCR assays. If the results are comparable, as the preliminary data seem to suggest, the suitcase laboratory could soon be increasingly used in the clinical field to determine SARS-CoV-2.

“With this tool, a so-called RPA test can be done directly on site, even in the most remote areas. It takes only 15 minutes to get a result,” said virologist Dr Ahmed Abd El Wahed from the Institute of Animal Hygiene and Veterinary Public Health, who is leading the study at Leipzig University. “A saliva sample or a nasal swab is sufficient for the test and all reagents can be used at room temperature.”

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