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New All-in-one Test for Covid-19 Combines All Tests Into a Single Procedure

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Researchers have developed a Covid-19 testing strategy that can streamline the process of identifying cases, tracking variants, and detecting co-infecting viruses.

Currently, separate assays and complex workflows are involved in each of the diagnostic procedures, with analyses typically performed in highly specialized facilities.

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The team from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia has now combined all three kinds of tests into a single procedure that should allow for point-of-care tracking of Covid-19 and the many emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2.

“Our all-in-one test provides a promising integrated solution for rapid field-deployable detection and mutational surveillance of pandemic viruses,” said the study’s lead author Mo Li, a stem cell biologist from KAUST.

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The new test takes advantage of a recent genetic method (called recombinase polymerase amplification) and a next-generation portable sequencer to quickly detect the presence of viral sequences and provide read-outs — in up to 96 patient samples at a time.

Li’s team, in collaboration with researchers from Saudi Arabia, the US, and Spain, designed the test to decode five segments of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, each chosen to help guide variant track. They also incorporated assays for three common respiratory viruses that can cause symptoms similar to Covid-19.

The team validated the technique — termed NIRVANA — using nose and throat swabs from people suspected of having SARS-CoV-2 infection. They also tested wastewater samples collected from municipal sewage at KAUST. Moreover to show how the method could allow for population-level surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses.

“NIRVANA can rapidly diagnose multiple viral infections in a high-throughput manner, it can simultaneously detect the virus and report its mutations,” said Chongwei Bi, a doctoral student at KAUST.

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