Low-cost PCR test designed to detect coronavirus

The project of Consuelo Rubio has been among those chosen for the call of the Valencian System of Innovation and Research for the COVID-19 emergency.

The associated professor from the Department of Pharmacy at the CEU Cardenal Herrera (CEU UCH) University of Valencia, Consuelo Rubio Guerri, has designed a quantitative PCR test for the detection of coronavirus SARS CoV-2 using probes from a commercial library (Universal Probe Library, UPL) which makes it possible to decrease its cost.

From prior tests by Doctor Rubio Guerri on another RNA virus, this PCR could have very high sensitivity and specificity in detecting SARS CoV-2.

In the strategy designed, the same highly-preserved regions of the RNA of the virus that are used in current diagnostic PCRs would be expanded, but the use of he pre-existing probe library could significantly cheapen the cost of the test.

Furthermore, and in light of the prior experience of doctor Rubio with this methodology, the results for SARS CoV-2 could be obtained in just two hours and its sensitivity could be very high.

As the CEU UCH professor highlights, "the same approach with the use of this commercial probe library and the appropriate computer tools for the selection of the optimal probes has already been used for the detection, with high sensitivity, specificity and in a very short amount of time, of other viruses, such as swine fever or dolphin and other marine cetacean morbillivirus."

In this last case, thanks to doctor Rubio herself, as part of a mixed team of the Oceanográfic and the Complutense University of Madrid. The test that is now proposed for the detection of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 in humans will use positive and negative controls to guarantee due sensitivity and specificity with each test.

The decrease in costs is important to be able to amplify the number of conducted tests as much as possible with the available economic resources, thus facilitating the diagnosis of COVID-19 for a higher number of people, for a better knowledge of the prevalence of the active disease."

Consuelo Rubio Guerri, Professor, Doctor in Veterinary Sciences, University of Madrid

As the WHO has repeatedly noted, one of the main challenges for the fight against COVID-19 is the diagnosis, and even more so until we have a vaccine that can be used massively. This is what we will focus our efforts on in this project, in response to the request of the Valencian Community to the scientific community."

The president of the Valencian Community, Ximo Puig, presened this Wednesday, in an online event with the participation of Science minister Pedro Duque, the 41 projects selected among the over 200 presented to the call of the Valencian Innovation and Research System for the COVID-19 emergency, together with the councillor for Innovation, Universities, Science and Digital Society, Carolina Pascual. Among the chosen projects is the design of the PCR test for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 of CEU UCH professor Consuelo Rubio.

Another was the first prototype of the bi-level turbine ventilator for the controlled ventilation by pressure of patients affected by COVID-19, Acute-19. Veterinary Anaesthesiology professors José Ignacio Redondo and Jaime Viscasillas took part in its testing on an animal model, which was conducted at the Clinical Veterinarian Hospital of the CEU UCH. The design of this ventilator was headed by the IIS-La Fe and Darimo Carbon.

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