Researchers in Singapore develop a new Covid-19 detection test

The new detection test can be performed on crude patient samples without the need for RNA purification, and can provide results in 30 minutes

A team of researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have recently made a breakthrough by designing a new diagnostic test called Variant Nucleotide Guard (VaNGuard) for detecting mutated variants of Covid-19.

According to a published study, the new diagnostic test utilizes a gene-editing tool called ‘CRISPR’ used for scientific research to modify DNA sequences. It also alters gene functions in human cells under lab conditions. Researchers claim that VaNGuard test can be done on crude patient samples in a clinical setting without the requirement for RNA purification, and can offer results in 30 minutes.

Commenting on the breakthrough, Tan Meng How, Associate Professor at the School of Chemical & Biomedical Engineering, NTU, said that viruses are very smart and can mutate, alter, or shuffle their genetic material. This behavior can undermine the effectiveness of diagnostic tests.

Given to this challenge, researchers have spent considerable amount of efforts on developing a robust and sensitive test that can detect viruses even after changes in their genetic sequences. Furthermore, frequent testing is crucial for breaking transmission of viruses among the population. This aspect has incited researchers to develop tests that are rapid and affordable, and are suitable for use across resource-poor settings.

Reports have it that researchers have made the diagnostics test more feasible by integrating them into a specially treated paper strip that resembles a similar look as that of a pregnancy test.

Basically, the paper strip is immersed in a tube that contains reaction mix and the crude nasopharyngeal sample which, in the presence of a Covid-19 virus or possible variant, will display two strong bands. On the flip side, only one band will appear in case the samples record an absence of the virus.

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