Sensitive and specific electrochemical detection of COVID‑19 (SARS-CoV2) based on isothermal amplification

Perreault, Jonathan | $50,000

Quebec INRS 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

The epidemic of the SARS-CoV2 virus (COVID-19) and its global spread urgently requires efficient means for rapid diagnosis, as well as detection in various environments (aside from clinical laboratories), such as airplanes, schools, potential animal carriers, etc. Indeed, most of the countries that appear to go through the current pandemic with currently relatively low death tolls and that are managing partial deconfinement are among those that are doing the most virus tests. We have previously devised a colorimetric method to detect specific virus DNA which could potentially be used for “on site” virus detection and which, in combination with an electrode-based detection device, would provide simple, sensitive and cheap on-site detection of the virus.

SARS-CoV2 (the pathogen causing COVID-19) is an RNA virus, which adds a step for its amplification with the most commonly used detection methods, compared to other viruses with a genome made of DNA. The method we want to implement detects RNA and DNA in a similar way. Moreover, the current gold standard for virus detection requires specialized laboratory material and personnel, which also means sample transportation logistics and waiting queues for samples to be processed. We aim at implementing a novel DNA amplification method (called Rolling Circle Amplification) which does not rely on specialized equipment. By combining this with electrodes we expect to achieve sensitive and rapid detection of the virus genome without the need for bulky complex devices.

Even if we all hope for a vaccine to come as soon as possible, there is still a dire need for an efficient, rapid and simple test to monitor, perhaps even on a daily or weekly basis, everyone who is going back to work or school to ensure that we can quickly respond to any new eclosion as soon as it can be detected. This would allow to have confinement measures targeted only on the workplaces with acknowledged COVID-19, but without affecting all work places and schools simultaneously.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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