Researchers develop low-cost protocol for early virus detection

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : March 11, 2020, 17:59 | Updated : March 11, 2020, 17:59

[Yonhap News Photo]

SEOUL -- South Korean researchers claimed to have developed a laboratory-safe, low-cost, high-sensitivity protocol for the early detection of a new coronavirus that would be helpful for the first-hand screening of asymptomatic virus carriers.

"Our protocol should be useful when the purpose of the testing is to identify the negative people, who need to work, study, and sport normally," a research team at the Institute for Basic Science (IBS) said. The team's research paper was published through the website of Experimental Neurobiology, a peer-reviewed medical journal.

A low-cost, easy-access protocol for the early detection of COVID-19 is desperately needed as there have been reports about the possibility of this virus to transmit even before a virus-carrying person to show symptoms, the research paper said, adding the cost is estimated to be less than $15.

It takes less than four hours at conventional biosafety level II labs equipped with a real-time reverse-transcription PCR machine. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is used to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample allowing scientists to take a very small sample of DNA and amplify it to a large enough amount to study.

"Our newly developed protocol should be helpful for a first-hand screening of the asymptomatic virus-carriers for further prevention of transmission and early intervention and treatment for the rapidly propagating virus," according to the research paper.

However, the research team cautioned against the use of the new protocol in clinics saying there should be much more thorough examinations for clinical use.

The research team said it has developed and unveiled nine sets of primer sequences that can detect COVID-19 by amplifying the genes of samples taken deep in the victim's throat. Amplified genes were compared with four features found in COVID-19. If all four parts do not show a response, it means "not infected," but medical treatment is recommended if any of them is tested positive.
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