Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
A new test, considered a breakthrough, which determines whether one is infected with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in five minutes from the normal 30 minutes, has been invented.
University of Birmingham-College of Life and Environmental Sciences (UoB-UK Campus) Biotechnology professor Dr. Tim Dafforn said this new method is still useful; in answer to Gulf Today’s question of its relevance, in relation to the rollout of vaccines in some countries, against the infectious and mutated SARS-CoV2. He added the new method has nothing to do with the entry of the new SARS-CoV2 variant. The laboratory research totalled nine months in 2020. Its brainchild is UoB-Chemistry PhD student Jake Carter.
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Dafforn said in the email interview: “Although the COVID-19 vaccine is excellent news and undoubtedly will be the route to eradicating the virus, there is going to be a need for testing for at least in the next nine months.
“To begin with, it is going to take time to vaccinate a country so we still need to monitor outbreaks.
“Secondly, different countries will vaccinate at different rates so countries will still need to test people at ports of entry.”
“In all these cases, a rapid deployable test, like the one we have developed, is going to be important,” he also wrote.
Dafforn in an earlier interview over birminghamlive said Carter “wanted to create a new COVID-19 assay.”
The expert in biophysical spectroscopy (technique associated with the atomic and molecular study of the structure, properties, and functions of biomolecules produced by living organisms and cells) was Carter’s research supervisor.
The other supervisors were UoB-Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences-Cancer Genetics & Surgery professor Dr. Andrew Beggs and UoB-School of Chemistry Supramolecular professor Dr. James Tucker.
The research let them discover that the use of the Exponential Amplification Reaction technique is more sensitive as it could speed up and cut down the diagnostics of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test specimen from the normal thirty minutes to five minutes.
The normal two-step procedure of the PCR test, which involves the conversion of the RNA to DNA, became a single step process.
The technique combined the two steps together – “the first step of which is the conversion of the genetic material (RNA) into a form (DNA) that can be amplified in the second step to allow it to be detected,” completing the procedure in five minutes.
“Although the test detects the new variant, the work addressed the pressing need for faster and more accurate tests that could be eventually used away from centralised laboratories.
“Lateral flow tests currently provide this facility but have low accuracy, particularly if the patient is producing low numbers of the virus,” Dafforn said.
The sensitivity of the new test was concluded as “sufficiently sensitive” based on its performance against samples from patients “to determine the lowest concentration of viral genes that it can detect.”
“This had been compared to the gold standard PCR test and shown to be of a similar level. This means that the new test is sufficiently sensitive to be used for COVID detection,” said Dafforn.
UoB already applied for the patent of this new method. The research team is working for it to be tested in a clinical setting.
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