Two new rapid tests that could help contain Coronavirus epidemic
WASHINGTON –World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China,a public health emergency, and as of today, the virus has infected nearly 10,000 people in China, with the death toll soaring to more than 200. In order to contain this pandemic, healthcare workers need to quickly and accurately identify new coronavirus cases so that patients get crucial medical care and transmission can be halted. However, the Chinese labs that can test for coronavirus are currently overwhelmed. Therefore there is an urgent need to develop quick and easy tests to diagnose coronavirus infection.
Researchers have developed two new tests accurately diagnose coronavirus infection in about 1 hour. These tests could play a critical role in halting this deadly outbreak by enabling healthcare workers to isolate and treat patients much faster than is currently possible. The research has been published in AACC's Journal of Clinical Chemistry.
A team of researchers led by Leo L.M. Poon, DPhil, of the University of Hong Kong has developed two rapid tests for the coronavirus that could break this diagnostic bottleneck. Using a technology known as real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the tests detect two gene regions that are only found in the Wuhan coronavirus (officially known as 2019-novel-coronavirus) and in other closely related coronaviruses such as SARS. The two gene regions detected by the tests are known as ORF1b and N. Significantly, both tests also take only about 1 hour and 15 minutes to run. This fast turnaround time could enable Chinese labs to greatly increase patient access to coronavirus testing.
To evaluate the performance of these tests, Poon's team first confirmed that the tests accurately identify genetic material extracted from cells infected with the SARS coronavirus. The researchers also showed that the tests return negative results for samples containing genetic material from other respiratory viruses, demonstrating that the tests accurately differentiate coronavirus infection from other causes of pneumonia. Lastly, Poon's team used the tests to analyze sputum and throat swab samples from two patients infected with the 2019-novel-coronavirus. The tests correctly gave positive results for both patients.
"Signs of [coronavirus] infection are highly non-specific and these include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, [shortness of breath], and viral pneumonia," said Poon. "Thus, diagnostic tests specific for this infection are urgently needed for confirming suspected cases, screening patients, and conducting virus surveillance. The established assays [in this study] can achieve rapid detection of 2019-novel-coronavirus in human samples, thereby allowing early identification of patients."
For more details click on the link: https://doi.org/10.1093/clinchem/hvaa029