New rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests can differentiate between variants

New rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests can differentiate between variants
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Two new COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been developed that have a fast turnaround time and are able to differentiate between variants of the virus.

The tests have been developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, with one able to detect COVID-19 variants and one able to differentiate other illnesses that have COVID-19-like symptoms.

CRISPR/Cas9 system technology is used for both tests, and, using commercial reagents, the researchers describe a Cas-9-based methodology for nucleic acid detection using lateral flow assays and fluorescence signal generation.

The findings have been published in the journal Bioengineering.

Rapid diagnosis

The first rapid diagnostic test can differentiate between COVID-19 variants and can be performed without specialised expertise or equipment using technology like at-home pregnancy testing – producing results in about one hour.

The second, rapid and more sensitive test allows researchers to analyse the same sample simultaneously for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), Influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus by measuring fluorescence. These viruses manifest with similar symptoms, so being able to detect and differentiate them adds a new diagnostic tool to slow the spread of COVID-19. This test could be easily scaled up according to the researchers, as the necessary equipment is present in most diagnostics laboratories and many research laboratories.

First author, Mark Osborn, PhD, assistant professor of Paediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said: “The approval of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is highly promising, but the time between first doses and population immunity maybe months. This testing platform can help bridge the gap between immunisation and immunity.”

The team is now seeking to enhance sensitivity and real-world application of this test in support of rapidly detecting and identifying COVID-19 variants in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Engineering in Medicine and Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School.

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