According to a release published in ScienceDaily, researchers have been able to produce a new test for COVID-19 producing extremely fast results. The researchers claim that their methodology may provide a test that is not only simple, but also sufficiently sensitive. The test does not need samples to be stored at elevated temperatures and can be conducted using normal laboratory equipment, rendering it simple to use.
The latest procedure explaining the patient RNA given by Public Health England was prepared in a preprint paper (still to be reviewed) on MedRxiv, in which researchers show the pace and sensitivity of their system.
Professor Tim Dafforn of the University's School of Biosciences said, "We have designed a new method for testing that combines the ease of use and speed of lateral flow testing with the inherent sensitivity of an RNA test. It features reagents that can be used in existing point of care devices and meets the need for testing in high throughput, near-patient, settings where people may be waiting in line for their results."
The most reliable COVID-19 tests currently in use use a technique called PCR which detects viral DNA (polymerase chain reaction). The PCR test is typically a two-step procedure whereby first the DNA is translated to RNA and then a large amount of copies of the DNA are amplified.
The latest assessment is easier than the previous version and incorporates an additional examination approach named the Extended Protocol (Exponential Amplification Reaction). This method utilizes very small, single strands of DNA for the replication process. This has an effect on the short period of time it takes to get results.
The test can be performed using normal laboratory equipment at lower temperatures than PCR studies, which involve higher temperatures for isolation of strands of DNA from the amplification method.
The University of Birmingham has submitted a patent application covering a novel approach for growing amounts of RNA in a sample, and utilizing the product for detecting RNA in a sample.
The researchers, made up a cross-disciplinary team from the University of Birmingham's School of Biosciences and the School of Chemistry, intend to create a basic test which will provide 'on the spot' outcomes.
Professor Jim Tucker, from the University's School of Chemistry says: "The EXPAR technique has been tried and tested over several years, but we've been able to apply it in a new way to detect COVID-19. This is an extremely promising approach to developing a rapid, accurate test which could increase NHS testing capability by up to five times."
The maximum throughput is anticipated for the EXPAR process, however the technology is expected to apply to other RNA-based viruses and infectious agents such as bacteria, as well as other diseases like cancer.
Professor Andrew Beggs, from the University's Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, says: "More rapid testing will allow us to unlock near patient testing, getting people safely back to work and controlling outbreaks when they happen. The development of the EXPAR test will allow us to produce more tests that can rapidly diagnose COVID-19."