COVID-19 Tests Compared

COLD SPRING HARBOR, NEW YORK — In an important, comprehensive, and timely review, an expert team from the University of California Berkeley details the methodologies used in nucleic acid-based tests for detecting the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They show that these tests vary widely in applicability to mass screening and urge further improvements in testing technologies to increase speed and availability.

Testing for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been extensively discussed during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most sensitive tests measure the presence of the virus’ genetic material, RNA, in a patient’s sample, suggesting an ongoing infection. A huge effort is needed to scale up COVID-19 testing to a level required to ensure public safety. Many tests take several hours to complete and require extensive human labor as well as materials and equipment that are not universally available. There is a pressing need for alternatives, and the research community worldwide has provided a large number of them in journal articles and preprints (papers that have not yet been peer reviewed). The Berkeley scientists have assessed these approaches and show that some tests take minutes, some take hours, many are done in different ways, and they vary in cost and potential for mass use. The authors are “hopeful that the explosion of creative and multifaceted approaches to COVID-19 nucleic-acid testing will continue to seed solutions as society addresses the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Overcoming the bottleneck to widespread testing: A rapid review of nucleic acid testing approaches for COVID-19 detection

The limit of detection for published tests equivalent to the fewest number of molecules accurately assayed in a single reaction

About the article:
Published May 1, 2020, doi: 10.1261/rna.076232.120 RNA 2020.
Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society

About RNA:
RNA is a monthly journal which provides rapid publication of significant original research in all areas of RNA structure and function in eukaryotic, prokaryotic, and viral systems. It covers a broad range of subjects in RNA research, including: structural analysis by biochemical or biophysical means; mRNA structure, function and biogenesis; alternative processing: cis-acting elements and trans-acting factors; ribosome structure and function; translational control; RNA catalysis; tRNA structure, function, biogenesis and identity; RNA editing; rRNA structure, function and biogenesis; RNA transport and localization; regulatory RNAs; large and small RNP structure, function and biogenesis; viral RNA metabolism; RNA stability and turnover; in vitro evolution; and RNA chemistry. RNA considers papers in six categories: Reports, Articles, Bioinformatics, Hypotheses, Methods, and Letters to the Editor. In addition to the categories above, RNA publishes Reviews, Perspectives, Commentaries, and Mini-reviews. This journal is published by CSHL Press for RNA Society.

About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is an internationally renowned publisher of books, journals, and electronic media, located on Long Island, New York. Since 1933, it has furthered the advance and spread of scientific knowledge in all areas of genetics and molecular biology, including cancer biology, plant science, bioinformatics, and neurobiology. The Press is a division of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, an innovator in life science research and the education of scientists, students, and the public. For more information, visit our website at cshlpress.org.