Researchers invent a test capable of giving a result in less than 5 minutes

As you know, current COVID-19 tests only give results after 30 minutes. But researchers at the University of Birmingham have just invented an efficient process capable of giving precise results in less than five minutes.

This technique combines ease of use and the speed of testing lateral flow to the inherent sensitivity of an RNA test. It contains reagents which can be used in existing tests and meets current needs in terms of tests for the detection of the virus or its variants.

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The speed and sensitivity of this method have been demonstrated in a recently published article awaiting review on MedRxiv. The researchers used samples from patients, provided by Public Health England, as part of their research.

Le test Reverse Transcriptase Free EXPAR (RTF-EXPAR)

The proposed test is based on a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The first step uses a reverse transcriptase enzyme to convert RNA to DNA while the second requires heating and cooling cycles to amplify to detectable levels DNA copied using a DNA polymerase enzyme.

RTF-EXPAR converts viral RNA into DNA in a single step. It was combined with a technique called the Exponential Amplification Reaction (EXPAR) to increase DNA concentration to detectable levels at constant temperature.

Reducing the operation to less than 20 minutes has proven difficult, but with technological advances, single temperature processes have been developed. This helped to reduce the time required for the operation.

A patent application covering the method and its use in diagnostic equipment (the famous test) has been filed by a consortium from the University of Birmingham, as well as a license for the rapid production of this test.

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The RTF-EXPAR test: how does it work?

This test therefore contains a binding DNA sequence, which after having recognized the viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2 binds to it. An enzyme (BstNI), in the presence of the viral RNA, will cut a short section of the binding DNA after recognizing it. This will allow free viral RNA to bind to more binding DNA. The cycle goes repeat itself and will detect if there is a positive case.

This approach has been tested by researchers who incubated samples of BstNI, DNA binding and SARS-CoV-2 introduced into EXPAR reagents at a constant temperature of 50 ° C.

Detection possible in less than 5 minutes

Positive test results were obtained in plus or minus 4.72 minutes without any signal for the control sample after 10 minutes of incubation. A SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentration of approximately 72.7 copies / µL was detected in the positive sample, a value of approximately 10 times lower than the average viral load observed in samples from COVID-19 patients. Which says a lot about the efficiency of the process.

For clarity, beyond SARS-CoV-2, the use of the RTF-EXPAR method can be extended to the detection of any RNA-based infectious agent or any disease biomarker, depending on the researchers.


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