Sidra Medicine, a member of Qatar Foundation, has developed a simplified and rapid Covid-19 testing method with 98% accuracy.
The new method, second from Sidra Medicine, uses a pre-treatment of the specimen (swab sample) to replace the ribonucleic acid (RNA) extraction process, currently needed for Covid-19 testing.
The new method developed in-house at Sidra Medicine’s pathology laboratory, which is accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), replaces the viral RNA extraction process by simple dilution with nuclease-free water and heat treatment. The diluted sample is treated at 65C for 10 minutes before detection of viral RNA using a specific type of RT-PCR reagent.
The new method will reduce the cost of the test by approximately 75% and also improve the turn-around time of the test by approximately two hours.
The alternative test method, validated in the Pathology Department of Sidra Medicine, will be particularly useful for resource-limited countries for expanding their capacity for Covid-19 testing.
The new method was developed by Dr Mohamed Rubayet Hasan, a clinical molecular microbiologist in collaboration with a team of technologists and research associates from the Molecular Infectious Diseases Lab at Sidra Medicine. The programme is being overseen by Dr Patrick Tang, the division chief of pathology sciences.
Dr Hasan said: “Many organisations globally, including Sidra Medicine have invested in ground-breaking technologies and developed advanced protocols to test for Covid-19. Our use of automated RNA extraction platforms and liquid handling robots, have proven their merit for large volume testing. However, we wanted to have an additional alternative, should the reagents for RNA extraction become limited.”
“In addition, several of the resources that are currently being used, are absent or scarce in developing countries. Therefore, our direct approach, using the pre-treatment process and negating the need for the viral RNA extraction, would help expand the capacity to test for Covid-19. It is also easy to implement as it does not need any special equipment, materials or skill,” continued Dr Hasan.
Dr Tang, said, “We developed this method as part of a mitigation and preparation plan against the global shortage of critical reagents needed for Covid-19 testing. It is available as an alternative in case of equipment or supply chain failures. Also it relies on equipment that is readily available in most laboratories - a heating block and nuclease-free water.”
“While we are currently using another in-house developed process to test for Covid-19 at Sidra Medicine, it is reassuring that our scientists and technologists are working on innovative and cost-efficient ways to ensure that we have back-up plans that reduce our dependencies on equipment and reagents that are in short supply outside Qatar,” concluded Dr Tang.