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New Corona Mass Test up to 100 Times More Sensitive than Rapid Antigen Tests

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 01 Jul 2021
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Image: Blue-stained swab material from corona tests is prepared for analysis in a sequencing device with the help of a laboratory robot (Photo courtesy of Felix Heyder / University Hospital Bonn)
Image: Blue-stained swab material from corona tests is prepared for analysis in a sequencing device with the help of a laboratory robot (Photo courtesy of Felix Heyder / University Hospital Bonn)
A new corona test developed at the University Hospital Bonn can analyze a large number of swabs simultaneously using sequencing technology and has a similarly high sensitivity as the common qPCR test.

The innovative corona test "LAMP-Seq", which has been developed at the University Hospital Bonn (Bonn, Germany) offers the possibility to test many people regularly for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It offers great potential, especially for systematic testing in daycare centers, schools or companies. In this way, infections can be detected at an early stage and corresponding chains of infection can be interrupted quickly. The LAMP-Seq method detects not only corona infections with the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, but also the novel variants of concern alpha to delta.

For the "LAMP-Seq" test, the Bonn scientists have adapted the already established LAMP method ("Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification" - propagation of the viral genome at a constant temperature) and made it compatible with sequencing machines used for biomedical research. As a result, many samples can be analyzed simultaneously in a high-throughput procedure. Before thousands of samples are analyzed together in a sequencing run, each individual sample is linked to a molecular barcode. This barcode ensures that each sample can be assigned without doubt, even after thousands of samples have been pooled. This technology significantly reduces the cost per test in comparison to the qPCR test and makes the "LAMP-Seq" procedure a scalable corona mass test.

Even smaller models of the sequencing machines used are capable of analyzing around 10,000 samples in a single run (duration: around 10 to 12 hours). This virtually eliminates laboratory capacity as a limiting factor in testing. In several large studies (including school and employee testing) with a total of around 20,000 tests, the Bonn scientists have extensively tested, optimized and successfully validated the entire upstream and downstream logistics, from sample collection by throat swabs to fully digital feedback of the test results.

While the Bonn scientists have currently focused their innovative method entirely on SARS-CoV-2 testing, "LAMP-Seq" can also be used in the future for differential diagnostics in testing for other viruses such as influenza A and can also be quickly adapted to other viruses. The scientists are currently working on CE certification in order to make the "LAMP-Seq" test available internationally in the near future. Until this approval is obtained, the technically and scientifically fully validated "LAMP-Seq" method will continue to be used for pilot testing.

"Our corona test LAMP-Seq can detect about 100 times lower amounts of virus than current rapid antigen tests and is almost as sensitive and specific as the common qPCR test" said Prof. Dr. Jonathan Schmid-Burgk from the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology of the UKB. "Added to this is the high scalability of the test. By using sequencing machines, thousands of samples can be analyzed simultaneously."

"Retesting of the entire pool in case of a positive test result is therefore no longer necessary," said Dr. Kerstin Ludwig, Emmy-Noether group leader at the Institute of Human Genetics. "With its high throughput and sensitivity, the "LAMP-Seq" test can make a significant contribution to the screening of undetected infections. Especially in schools or companies, where many people regularly meet, the corona test is ideal to systematically and preventively monitor the occurrence of infections."

Related Links:
University Hospital Bonn

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