December 17, 2020Anglia Ruskin University
Results of a unique test that targets three viral genes to increase reliability and could cut COVID-19 detection time to 20 minutes has been peer reviewed and published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Stephen Bustin, professor of molecular medicine at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and a leading expert in quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), which is widely used to detect infectious SARS-CoV-2 in cells, has developed the assay, called Cov2-ID, along with colleagues at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford.
The test detects three viral targets, making it more reliable than other current tests that only target one or two viral genes. The new Cov2-ID test had 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity when tested on 23 RNA samples from COVID-19 patients and five samples from COVID-19 negative patients. The test also has the potential to detect viral load, which is the amount of the virus present in each patient.
While most of the samples were taken in Essex, England, and contained the mutant genotype of the virus, a sample from Australia contained a different "wild type" genotype.
Cov2-ID has been developed using MIQE guidelines (the minimum information required for evaluating qPCR experiments), which were developed by professor Bustin in collaboration with scientists across the world to promote best practice for qPCR assay design and publication, to produce results which are robust, sensitive and fast. It is also designed to minimize the likelihood of a false negative result which may lead to patients unwittingly infecting others.
The qPCR tests currently in use in the U.K. typically return results within one to two hours. The Cov2-ID testing process is both faster and simple to carry out and could potentially return results while the person tested waits, helping to reduce the spread of infection.
Bustin said: "Speed and reliability are vital elements of the testing process. Currently, it is not really feasible for someone to wait where they are for the results of their test. They might go to the shops, have some lunch, and only then get a positive result, risking community spread of the virus. We have developed a test that can deliver a result in just 20 minutes.
"Targeting three viral genes is unique, with most real-time qPCR assays currently only targeting two. This has led to some reports of false negative rates, again risking community spread. Our assay returned 100% accurate results from the samples collected."
- This press release was originally published on the ARU website