New COVID-19 rapid test kit receives scientific seal of approval

May 25, 2021

Simon Fraser University researchers have validated a faster, cheaper COVID-19 test that could kickstart the expansion of more widespread rapid testing. Study results have been published in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

“This research offers a cheaper, faster alternative to the most reliable and sensitive test currently used worldwide, without sacrificing sensitivity and reproducibility,” says molecular biology and biochemistry professor Peter Unrau, who led the team evaluating the COVID-19 test kit. 

The researchers suggest the test could be deployed in remote locations, clinics and airports due to its ease of use and portability.

The microchip real-time PCR test can provide accurate results in 30 minutes and requires 10 times less reagents than the tube-based RT-PCR tests approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Supply chain shortages of reagents and test kits during the pandemic has slowed the rapid expansion of clinical testing. This new COVID-19 test kit is another tool in the toolbox that uses less of the supply constrained reagents to achieve fast and accurate results. 

Unrau, along with PhD candidate Razvan Cojocaru and Master’s student Iqra Yaseen, first evaluated test sensitivity in the lab.

Then the test kit was sent to a clinical team at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver to determine its ability to detect COVID-19 in patient samples. The microchip PCR COVID-19 test kit results aligned with hospital testing results - demonstrating its effectiveness. 

The kit comes preloaded with COVID-19 primers and probes making it easy to use, reducing the potential for user error and improving the reliability of test results. 

The COVID-19 detection kits developed by Mission B.C.-based Lumex Instruments Canada and validated by Unrau’s team are low power (100 watt), compact, lightweight and available internationally.  

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