New Diagnostic Test Can Detect COVID-19 After Mutations

A team of scientists has developed a diagnostic test that can detect the virus that causes COVID-19 even after it has gone through mutations.

A team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a diagnostic test that can detect the virus that causes COVID-19 even after it has gone through mutations.

Called the VaNGuard (Variant Nucleotide Guard) test, it makes use of a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR, which is used widely in scientific research to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function in human cells under lab conditions, and more recently, in diagnostic applications.

Since viruses have the ability to evolve over time, a diagnostic test robust against potential mutations is a crucial tool for tracking and fighting the pandemic. Over its course so far, thousands of variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have arisen, including some that have spread widely in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil .

However, the genetic sequence variations in new strains may impede the ability of some diagnostic tests to detect the virus, said NTU Associate Professor Tan Meng How, who led the study.

In addition to its ability to detect SARS-CoV-2 even when it mutates, the VaNGuard test can be used on crude patient samples in a clinical setting without the need for RNA purification, and yields results in 30 minutes. This is a third of the time required for the gold standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which requires purification of RNA in a lab facility.

The team of scientists led by NTU hopes that the VaNGuard test can be deployed in settings where quickly confirming COVID-19 status of individuals is paramount.

The findings were published in scientific journal Nature Communications on 19 March.

The research team has filed a patent for the VaNGuard test.

Moving forward, they plan to perform further experiments to further refine their diagnostic kit, obtain regulatory approval from relevant authorities, and commercialise their test in partnership with diagnostic companies.

Originally published at News Medical

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