Researchers have developed a new all-in-one COVID-19 test that provides a solution for detection and surveillance of viruses that could help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 infection.
Separate tests and workflows are currently needed to identify COVID-19 cases, track variants, and detect co-infecting viruses, with analysis taking place in specialized laboratories. A team of researchers at KAUST has now combined these test trials into a single procedure that could lead to maintenance of COVID-19 and its variants.
Stem cell biologist Mo Li, who led the study, said: “Our all-in-one test provides a promising integrated solution for rapid on-site discovery and mutational surveillance of pandemic viruses.”
Point care testing
The newly developed test is a portable, portfolio-sized miniature laboratory that utilizes recombinant polymerase enhancement, a recent genetic method, as well as a next-generation portable sequencer to quickly detect the presence of virus sequences and provide readings. in up to 96 patient samples simultaneously. In collaboration with researchers from Saudi Arabia, the United States and Spain, Li’s team designed the test to decipher five segments of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, each selected to help guide variable tracks. They also assimilated tests for three common respiratory viruses that may cause symptoms similar to COVID-19.
The team validated the technique – called “NIRVANA” – using nasal and throat pads from people suspected of having COVID-19 infections and tested sewage samples collected from municipal sewage at KAUST to show how the method could allow resident-level control of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.
“NIRVANA can quickly diagnose multiple viral infections in high throughput,” said Chongwei Bi, Ph.D. student in Li’s lab. “It can simultaneously detect the virus and report its mutations.”
The team is now working to refine the NIRVANA platform for large-scale deployment.
One limitation of the test is that it can only detect SARS-CoV-2 mutations in selected genomic regions, and as new critical variants grow around the world, those regions could be updated to reflect the evolving nature of the virus. .