Rapid COVID-19 test shows improved sensitivity in latest research
A new test for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) known as STOPCovid detected 93 percent of the positive cases as determined by the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, according to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Since the start of the pandemic, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, along with collaborators at the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and the Ragon Institute, have been working on the CRISPR-based diagnostic that can produce results in 30 minutes to an hour, with similar accuracy as the standard PCR diagnostics now used.
In the current study, the researchers showed that on a set of patient samples, their test detected 93 percent of the positive cases as determined by PCR tests for COVID-19. The researchers incorporated a process to concentrate the viral genetic material in a patient sample by adding magnetic beads that attract RNA, eliminating the need for expensive purification kits that are time-intensive and can be in short supply due to high demand. This concentration step boosted the test's sensitivity so that it now approaches that of PCR.
The researchers tested STOPCovid on 402 patient samples, 202 positive and 200 negative, and found that the new test detected 93 percent of the positive cases as determined by the standard PCR test.
Though still in the research stage, the researchers anticipate the test could be made cheaply enough that people could test themselves every day.
“We developed STOPCovid so that everything could be done in a single step,” said Julia Joung, PhD candidate and first author of the paper, in a statement. “A single step means the test can be potentially performed by nonexperts outside of laboratory settings.”