Researchers have developed a Covid-19 testing strategy that can streamline case identification, track variants, and detect co-infecting viruses.
Currently, separate tests and complex workflows are involved in all diagnostic procedures, with analyzes typically performed in highly specialized facilities.
The team from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia has now combined the three types of tests into one procedure that should allow for point-of-care tracking of Covid-19 and the many variants that are coming emerged from SARS -CoV-2.
“Our all-in-one test provides a promising integrated solution for rapid detection of pandemic viruses for field use and mutational surveillance,” said lead study author Mo Li, a stem cell biologist from KAUST.
The new test takes advantage of a recent genetic approach (called polymerase recombinase amplification) and next-generation portable sequencing to quickly detect the presence of viral sequences and provide read-outs – in up to 96 patient samples at a time.
Li’s team, in collaboration with researchers from Saudi Arabia, the United States and Spain, designed the test to decode five parts of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, each selected to help guide the tracking of variants. They also incorporated tests for three common respiratory viruses that can cause Covid-19-like symptoms.
The team validated the technique – known as NIRVANA – using nose and throat swabs from people suspected of having a SARS-CoV-2 infection. They also tested wastewater samples collected from municipal sewage at KAUST. Furthermore to demonstrate how the method could allow for population-level surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.
“NIRVANA can quickly diagnose multiple viral infections in a high throughput mode, simultaneously detect the virus and report its mutations,” said Chongwei Bi, a doctoral student at KAUST.