Development of a high sensitivity RT-PCR assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 in individual and pooled nasopharyngeal samples

Harindi Jayakody, Daniel Rowland, Clint Pereira, Rachel Blackwell, Tomasz Lasota, Mark Laverick, Laurence Tisi, Hannah Leese, Alistair Walsham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic requires sensitive detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from samples to ensure accurate detection of infected patients, an essential component of effective national track and trace programs. Due to the scaling challenges of large sample numbers, sample pooling is an attractive solution to reduce both extraction and amplification reagent costs, if high sensitivity can be maintained. We demonstrate that the Erba Molecular ErbaMDx SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Kit (EM kit) delivers high sensitivity, achieving analytical detection of 5 copies/reaction SARS-CoV-2 genomic RNA, and 200 copies/mL SARS-CoV-2 inactivated virus spiked into nasopharyngeal swab (NP) samples and extracted through workflow. Furthermore, the EM Kit demonstrates high sensitivity in both pooled (1 in 5) and non-pooled NP samples when compared to an FDA Emergency Use Authorization approved assay, following published FDA guidelines. These findings demonstrate that the EM Kit is suitable for sample pooling, with minimal impact on assay performance. As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, high sensitivity assays such as the EM Kit will have an important role in ensuring high throughput and sensitive testing using pooled samples can be maintained, delivering the most cost-effective sample extraction and amplification option for national test and trace programs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5639
JournalScientific Reports
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022

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