Researchers develop five-minute COVID-19 test

Jan. 6, 2021

Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom have invented a COVID-19 test that reduces testing time from 30 minutes to under five minutes and delivers accurate results, according to a press release.

The method is described in a preprint paper (yet to be peer-reviewed) published on MedRxiv, where the researchers also demonstrate the rapidity and sensitivity of their method using patient sample RNA provided by Public Health England, according to the university.

The researchers created a novel single-step approach for converting viral RNA into DNA and combined it with a known technique called exponential amplification reaction (EXPAR), which increases DNA concentration to detectable levels at a constant temperature. They are calling the new method Reverse Transcriptase Free EXPAR (RTF-EXPAR) testing.

University of Birmingham Enterprise has filed a patent application covering the method and its use in diagnostic equipment and is now seeking to license the patent for rapid product development.

The method uses a DNA sequence (called Binder DNA) that recognizes and binds to SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA and an enzyme (BstNI) that recognizes the Binder DNA and cuts a short section from it when viral RNA is present. Once this cleavage has occurred, the viral RNA is free to bind to more Binder DNA and the cycle is repeated. The test detects the output of this cycle.

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