U of C develops new COVID-19 test

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Time is of the essence when it comes to the medical field, and with many public resources already strained due to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) are aiming at assisting the process.

The research team is sharing a new method of testing for SARS-CoV-2 — the scientific title for what’s commonly been referred to as the coronavirus or COVID-19 — which can provide results in half an hour.

Moreover, the test doesn’t require any high-end medical equipment or chemicals that are in limited supply internationally.

“Results from this method can be seen with the naked eye, the chemicals required are easier to access, and do not require refrigeration,” said Dr. Dylan Pillai, study lead and clinical-researcher at the CSM.

“The process can be made portable which opens up testing in resource-limited settings.”

Further development is ongoing to determine whether large-scale testing would be applicable for this method and whether it may be available for not only Canadians, but populations the world over.

“We are in the early stages of unlocking the potential of this method,” said Dr. Byron Berenger, co-author of the study with Alberta Precision Laboratories.

“As we’ve seen in Alberta, detecting and tracking positive cases of COVID-19 has proven critical in containing the spread of the virus.”

The method is named loop mediated amplification, or LAMP, and in less-scientific terms, it allows the detection of the virus from a swab in the nose or throat without using expensive instruments or equipment.

The team of researchers included experts from Calgary locals Illucidx Inc. and as far as Seattle and the University of Washington. The findings have been published on a free and accessible platform online so that laboratories and scientists around the world can benefit from the discovery.

“It’s very important to get this information out so others can benefit,” said Pillai. “Any clinical laboratory can adopt this method into its workflow now. We know for some places in the world, testing large numbers of people is difficult – this simplifies the process and makes it accessible.”