▲COVID-19 testing samples (sources: Freepik)
During the spread of COVID-19, research and development on testing tools is as important as medicine development. Rapid and precise testing methods can help us identify the patient earlier and more effectively to stop the virus from spreading. In March, the article “Fast, portable tests come online to curb coronavirus pandemic” was published on Nature biotechnology. The paper summarizes the current status of COVID-19 tests development, and includes the most up-to-date new research being conducted in the related field.
The article points out that the most common testing method now is polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. Although the result of PCR testing is highly accurate, it takes four to five hours to run the test and must be done in the lab.
Another method that can be used on testing the virus is Immunoassays, which based on the recognition of antibody and antigen of the virus. The advantage of Immunoassays is that it can provide a complete overview of information, such as the history of infection, within an hour. However, the preparation for the experiment is time consuming and the accuracy rate is lower than PCR testing.
With that said, neither PCR testing nor Immunoassays is the ideal testing method; therefore, scientists around the world are trying to develop a testing method that can precisely detect the COVID-19 virus within a short time.
To provide an overview of current R&D status of COVID-19 rapid test, the article summarizes the rapid-test research team around the world, the scientific theory behind the methods, and the development progress. Among all the COVID-19 rapid-test research, biotechnology companies in Canada and Germany are using Immunoassays’ concept to develop rapid-test kits. The scientific theory behind it is that human body will create antibody when being infected by virus and therefore the scientists can create test kits that contain virus antigen protein, which can detect COVID-19 virus through the characteristic of antibody and antigen binding.
▲Example of PCR testing experiment (sources: Freepik)
On the other hand, there are two biotechnology companies in the U.S.A. are cooperating with research institutes to develop fast and accurate testing kits by combining PCR testing and CRISPR-Cas.
It is noticeable that Taiwan Academia Sinica’s COVID-19 research outcome is also reported in the article for the successfulness of synthesizing a monoclonal antibody against SARS-CoV-2, which could be the basis of a rapid antigen test.
Sheridan, C. (2020) Fast, portable tests come online to curb coronavirus pandemic. Nature Biotechnology. 23 March (Last Updated: 14 April). Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41587-020-00010-2 [Accessed 16 April 2020].