New, Cheap COVID-19 Test Developed

by Colleen Fleiss on Sep 26 2020 2:17 AM

New, Cheap COVID-19 Test Developed
A method for fast, cheap, and accurate testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) infection has been developed by researchers at Karolinska Institutet. The study is published in Nature Communications.
Study Background

Current diagnostic tests for COVID-19 are based on detecting viral RNA in patient samples, such as nasal and throat swabs, from which RNA molecules are extracted and purified.

The RNA purification constitutes a significant bottleneck for the testing process, requiring many equipment and expensive chemical compounds. Scientists were looking out for a simpler yet effective coronavirus test to facilitate earlier-stage care.

"We started working on the issue of developing a readily available testing method as soon as we saw the developments in Asia and southern Europe, and before the situation reached crisis point in Sweden," says principal investigator Bjorn Reinius, research leader at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet. "Our method was effectively finished already by the end of April, and we then made all the data freely available online."

The new method circumvents the tedious RNA-extraction procedure. The patients' samples are inactivated using heating, rendering the virus particles no longer infectious; it can pass straight to the diagnostic reaction that detects the presence of coronavirus.

"By replacing the collection buffer with simple and inexpensive buffer formulations, we can enable viral detection with high sensitivity directly from the original clinical sample, without any intermediate steps," says Dr Reinius.

Institutions and research groups worldwide have shown great interest in the method since the first version of the scientific article was published on the preprint server medRxiv.

Benefits of New COVID-19 Test
  • Simplifies testing from expensive reaction steps.
  • Enables upscaling of the diagnostics.
"Thanks to the low cost and the simplicity of the method, it becomes a particularly attractive option at sites and in situations with limited resources but a pressing need to test for COVID-19," he says and adds: "I would certainly like to see that this test used in Sweden too, for example for cheap periodic testing of asymptomatic people to eliminate the spread of infection."