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New COVID-19 RNA Test Reduces Testing Time to Less than Five Minutes

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 06 Jan 2021
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A new COVID-19 test reduces testing time from 30 minutes to less than five and delivers accurate results.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham (Birmingham, UK) who developed the test believe their method could deliver a test that is not only fast but also sufficiently sensitive. The test does not require samples to be treated at high temperatures, and it can be performed using standard laboratory equipment, making it readily deployable.

The most accurate COVID-19 tests currently in use require detecting viral RNA - the most common of these use a technique called PCR (polymerase chain reaction). The PCR test is a two-step process, which involves first converting to the RNA to DNA and then ‘amplifying’ the material many times over. The new Birmingham test simplifies the method to a single step and uses an alternative amplification method called EXPAR (Exponential Amplification Reaction). This technique uses very short, single strands of DNA for the replication process, which can be completed in a matter of minutes, making a significant reduction in the overall time needed to produce results. The entire test can be run on standard laboratory equipment at lower temperatures compared to PCR tests, which require higher temperatures to separate out strands of DNA as part of the amplification process.

“We have designed a new method for testing that combines the ease of use and speed of lateral flow testing with the inherent sensitivity of an RNA test,” said Professor Tim Dafforn from the University’s School of Biosciences. “It features reagents that can be used in existing point of care devices and meets the need for testing in high throughput, near-patient, settings where people may be waiting in line for their results.”

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University of Birmingham


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