The Potential Use of Unprocessed Sample for RT-qPCR Detection of COVID-19 without an RNA Extraction Step

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
A. Arumugam, Season S Wong

Abstract

Quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) assay is the gold standard recommended to test for acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. It has been used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and several other companies in their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) assays. With many PCR-based molecular assays, an extraction step is routinely used as part of the protocol. This step can take up a significant amount of time and labor, especially if the extraction is performed manually. Long assay time, partly caused by slow sample preparation steps, has created a large backlog when testing patient samples suspected of COVID-19. Using flu and RSV clinical specimens, we have collected evidence that the RT-qPCR assay can be performed directly on patient sample material from a nasal swab immersed in virus transport medium (VTM) without an RNA extraction step. We have also used this approach to test for the direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 reference materials spiked in VTM. Our data, while preliminary, suggest that using a few microliters of these untreated samples still can lead to sensitive test results. If RNA extraction steps can be omitted without significantly affecting clinical sensitivity, the turn-aro...Continue Reading

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