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Scientists have developed a new method that allows anyone to easily and quickly detect COVID-19 in just 30 minutes, and is as accurate as the current PCR diagnostic test.

The SENSR technology developed by researchers at Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea diagnosis COVID-19 based on the RNA sequence of the virus, reducing the stress on one single testing location and avoiding contact with infected patients as much as possible.

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RNA is a nucleic acid that mediates genetic information or is involved in controlling the expression of genes.

The biggest benefit is that a diagnostic kit can be developed within a week even if a new infectious disease appears other than COVID-19, according to the research published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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The researchers noted that PCR molecular test currently used for COVID-19 diagnosis has very high accuracy but entails a complex preparation process to extract or refine the virus.

The test is not suitable for use in small farming, fishing villages, or airport or drive-thru screening clinics as it requires expensive equipment and skilled experts, they said.

The researchers designed the test kit to produce nucleic acid binding reaction, showing fluorescence only when COVID-19 RNA is present.

The virus can be detected immediately without any preparation process with high sensitivity in a short time. And it is as accurate as the current PCR diagnostic method.

Using the new technology, they found the SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA, the cause of COVID-19, from an actual patient sample in about 30 minutes.

In addition, five pathogenic viruses and bacterial RNAs were detected, which proved the kit’s usability in detecting pathogens other than COVID-19.

Another great advantage of the SENSR technology is the ease of creating the diagnostic device that can be developed into a simple portable and easy-to-use form.

This method is a fast and simple diagnostic technology which can accurately analyse the RNA without having to treat a patient’s sample,” said POSTECH Professor Jeong Wook Lee. “We can better prepare for future epidemics as we can design and produce a diagnostic kit for new infectious diseases within a week, – Jeong Wook Lee

The method not only allows onsite diagnosis before going to the screening clinic or being hospitalised, but also allows for a more proactive response to COVID-19 by supplementing the current centralized diagnostic system.

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