Saturday, February 15, 2020

Vietnam Announces 70-Minute Rapid COVID-19 Test Based on RT-LAMP

Good news has come as Vietnamese scientists have successfully created a toolkit to quickly detect the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) within just 70 minutes, instead of the three hours needed for other usual test methods.

The collaboration between the School of Biotechnology and Food Technology (SBFT) under the Hanoi University of Science and Technology and Innogenex International Science and Technology Co. Ltd. has resulted in the achievement.

In efforts to deal with the spread of nCoV epidemic, the research team, led by Dr. Le Quang Hoa, and Innogenex have announced the latest result in forming the quick test kit based on RT-LAMP (Reverse Transcription-Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification) technology, a nucleic acid isothermal amplification technique specifically used to detect the RNA of pathogenic viruses.

With the newly-formed test kit, it is known that Vietnam is the first country to successfully produce the RT-LAMP quick test kit for detecting the 2019-nCoV, which helps to shorten testing time and simplify the analytical process, that is applicable right from at district-level hospitals.

A study within less than a month

Previously, to test the suspected nCoV cases, Vietnam applied a gene sequencing test method that took 3-5 days. Then, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) test sample combined with molecular biology testing method, the time for needed to test for the new coronavirus in Vietnam decreased to less than 9 hours. In the world, the standard real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) method recommended by the WHO takes about 3 hours to get results.

Sharing with Nhan Dan Newspaper, Dr. Le Quang Hoa, Head of the SBFT’s Gene Technology Laboratory, said his 10-member team had started a study on rapid detection of nCoV from January 15, right after China announced the genome sequence of the new strain of coronavirus.

Right before the Lunar New Year (in late January), the team designed the primers of the colour-changing RT-LAMP reaction to detect viral RNA specificity and completed the synthesis of artificial genes for the genetic material of this pathogen.

Over the last 10 days, the research team completed the process of producing their biological product to ensure sensitivity and specificity equivalent to the standard real-time PCR method which is recommended by WHO.

Detecting positive nCoV cases in only 15-30 mins

Dr. Hoa said that the principle of RT-LAMP method applied by the group is nucleic acid isothermal amplification technique, in which the reverse transcription and amplification phase are performed at a single temperature, with amplification of DNA up to over a billion times. In particular, a positive reaction is detected directly based on the discoloration of the solution, which helps to shorten and simplify the analysis process. The total analysis time is only 70 minutes, which consists of two stages: RNA extraction of the virus (30 minutes), and preparation and conducting RT-LAMP reaction (40 minutes).

“RT-LAMP reaction only needs 30 minutes to conclude whether the sample is positive for RNA of 2019-nCoV or not. For strong positive samples, they can be detected only within 15 minutes,” said Dr. Hoa.

Another outstanding advantage of the RT-LAMP bio-product over the standard real-time PCR is its simplicity, with no complicated equipment required. This helps in that the RT-LAMP test kit can be used right from in district hospitals and field hospitals when there is an outbreak, thus localising the epidemic and limiting its spread.

In particular, the production cost for the new test kit is only at VND350,000 (over US$15), while the production cost of the real-time PCR test kit is VND1 million. Compared to other molecular biology techniques, the RT-LAMP requires simple devices with only a thermostatic tank for on-site application, while the kit is also highly sensitive and specific, equivalent to the real-time PCR one.

Hoa added that due to the lack of access to real patient samples, the team has not yet determined the accuracy of their kit on clinical specimens. However, when it is performed on faked samples using artificial synthetic RNA, the results obtained were accurate.

“We hope that the Ministries of Health and Science and Technology to support the research team so that we can test the kit and determine its exact ratio in the near future to serve the epidemic control right from the district hospitals,” Hoa said.

His team is seeking to coordinate with specialised units of the Ministry of Health to conduct the inspection as well as to make contact with businesses to transfer technology to produce the biological product.

On a laboratory scale, the team can produce about 2,000 test kits per day. In the next two weeks, the kit is expected to be applied in practice after being thoroughly tested.

Source: Nhân Dân

PolyU Develops an Automated Multiplex Diagnostic Test for Detecting up to 40 Infectious Respiratory Pathogens Including 2019-nCoV (COVID-19)

Infectious diseases represent an important portion of global public health concerns¸ in particular with regard to the current global outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The challenge of frontline diagnosis in hospitals, clinics and ports is that infectious diseases could exhibit similar symptoms or can be asymptomatic. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) today announced the development of the world's most comprehensive automated multiplex diagnostic system (the System) which includes a fully automated machine and a multiplex full-screening panel for the point-of-care genetic testing (POCT) of respiratory infectious disease including the 2019-nCoV.

In one single test and within approximately one hour, the System can identify 30 to 40 pathogens including seasonal influenza viruses, such as influenza A subtypes H1, H2 and H3; avian influenza viruses H5, H7 and H9; human respiratory syncytial virus; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV); Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and 2019-nCoV. Leveraging the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, the system is fully automated from sample nucleic acid extraction and amplification, to signal detection and analysis. The System adopts patent-pending microfluidic and biochemical technologies that achieve ultra-sensitive detection (down to 5 gene copies) and simultaneous differentiation of various pathogens with extremely high specificity. It is also user-friendly, with manual handling not being required throughout the testing process.

"Early and accurate detection of pathogens could contribute to effective and efficient disease control and management, and prevent spreading of any contagious pathogens. It benefits the patients as well because timely therapy can then be applied to prevent complications. The existing challenge is that we lack full panel POCT technologies for early and on-site diagnosis, which should ideally be capable of differentiating between different pathogens at the same time. This newly-developed system could be a practical solution," said Professor Lau.

PolyU and The University of Hong Kong (HKU) have established the Respiratory Virus Research Foundation ("the Foundation") in 2015 and have since then been working on various innovative technologies to tackle existing and emerging respiratory infectious diseases. The Foundation has fostered various collaborations, including those on vaccine and rapid diagnostics respectively. The former is led by HKU Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, Henry Fok Professor in Infectious Diseases, Chair Professor of Infectious Diseases from the Department of Microbiology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine; the latter is led by PolyU Professor Terence Lau Lok-ting, Director of Innovation and Technology Development and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology.

Ir. Professor Alexander Wai Ping-kong, Vice President (Research Development), Deputy President and Provost designate of PolyU, said, "In this difficult and challenging time that Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, and even the global community is encountering, it is important that the research community can quickly pool their expertise and resources to develop practical solutions. The PolyU-HKU partnership is a prime example of effective coupling of multidisciplinary innovation and translation."

The research team for this project is led by PolyU Professor Terence Lau Lok-ting and supported by HKU Professor Yuen Kwok-yung. Through collaborative efforts, the team has spent the past four years to develop the System. In the past year, the team has optimised  the System and conducted trials on different clinical samples. In the midst of the 2019-nCoV outbreak, the team has also conducted tests on clinical samples using the system.

Professor Yuen commented, "The System's versatility and capability will provide for comprehensive monitoring during disease outbreaks or routine surveillance. It will become a crucial technology for ensuring the effective control of infectious diseases, medical diagnosis, and treatment."

"This fully automated, quantitative rapid diagnostic platform possesses a proprietary technology which overcomes limitations of existing technologies by ensuring sensitivity -- and hence significantly enhancing the reliability of test results. Most importantly, our innovation can substantially reduce the cost of the microfluidic cartridge manufacturing thus making it feasible for wide adoption. It is ready for mass-scale production," added Professor Lau.

The research team has received indispensable support from a local biotechnology company Avalon Biomedical Management Ltd for this project.  "We are honoured to be able to participate in this project and are delighted to see this important milestone in the collaboration between Professor Lau and Professor Yuen. We believe this advanced point-of-care diagnostic system can revolutionize the current diagnostic paradigm and provide a powerful tool to fight against infectious diseases," said Dr Manson Fok, Chairman of the Board of the company, Executive & Trust Committee member of Macau Henry Fok Foundation and Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Macau University of Science and Technology.

Humankind's modern day battles against epidemics remain a major challenge and it is vital that people keep learning from the past and equipping themselves with the best technologies available. Towards this end the research team will continue to urgently focus on developments to ensure the system's robustness and cost-effectiveness, and to collaborate with relevant parties on clinical trials, regulatory approvals, and frontline applications of this POCT system.

SOURCE Hong Kong Polytechnic University

CDC Concludes Some Coronavirus Test Kits Are Flawed

Some of the coronavirus testing kits sent to state laboratories around the country have flaws and do not work properly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday.

The kits were meant to enable states to conduct their own testing and have results faster than they would by shipping samples to the CDC in Atlanta. But the failure of the kits means that states that encountered problems with the test should not use it, and would still have to depend on the CDC’s central lab, which could cause several days’ delay in getting results.

“Obviously, a state wouldn’t want to be doing this test and using it to make clinical decisions if it isn’t working as well, as perfectly, at the state as it is at CDC,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The CDC recommends testing for some people who have symptoms like fever, cough or shortness of breath, and who, within the past 14 days, have traveled to China or have been in close contact with a patient known to be infected with the coronavirus. Doctors with patients in that category are supposed to consult their state health department about whether the patients should be tested for the virus.

The CDC announced late Wednesday that another evacuee quarantined at a military base in California had tested positive for coronavirus. The new case among evacuees from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, brings to 14 the total of confirmed cases in the United States. A previous case was diagnosed at the Miramar base in San Diego on Sunday.

The first and second patients arrived on different planes and were housed in separate facilities at Miramar, according to the CDC Dr. Chris Braden, an expert on the site, said in a statement that, “At this time there is no indication of person-to-person spread of this virus at the quarantine facility, but CDC will carry out a thorough contact investigation as part of its current response strategy to detect and contain any cases of infection with this virus.”

The CDC announced last week that it had begun shipping about 200 kits to laboratories in the United States and roughly 200 more to labs in more than 30 other countries. Each kit can test about 700 to 800 specimens from patients, the agency said.

Kits were shipped to every state, but officials did not say how many of the kits were faulty.

At a news conference on Wednesday morning, Dr. Messonnier said that test kits had been shipped to more than 30 other countries, but later in the day said that she was mistaken, and that the international shipments had been held back because of the flaw.

Before the kits were shipped to the states, Dr. Messonnier had emphasized repeatedly at news conferences that the kits would not go out until the CDC was sure they were as accurate as possible.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the infectious diseases division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said accurate diagnostic tests were invaluable.

“The test is the only way you can definitely know you have the infection,” Dr. Marrazzo said. “You absolutely need it for case counting. It allows you to know who’s infected. You can treat those people, if a treatment is available, and you can isolate them.”

Doctors in China said there was an urgent need for a simpler, quicker diagnostic test, officials from the World Health Organization said during a news briefing on Wednesday.

On trial runs in some states, the CDC kits produced results that were “inconclusive,” Dr. Messonnier said. The tests did not involve samples from potential patients, but were part of the routine quality-control procedures that labs go through before using a test to make real diagnoses.

“Things may not always go as smoothly as we may like,” Dr. Messonnier said.

The problem appeared to come from one ingredient involved in the test, Dr. Messonnier said, adding that the CDC would make a new supply of that ingredient to send to all of the laboratories. Officials did not say when the ingredient would be shipped, but said the process was being expedited and the material would be made available as soon as possible.

States that did not have trouble with the kits could keep using them, Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC, said, adding that those states would still receive the newly made ingredient from the agency.

The flawed test kits are a separate issue from the mislabeled samples in San Diego that led officials to discharge from a hospital a woman who was sick from the coronavirus.

More than 1,380 people have died, nearly all of them in China, where there are more than 55,000 confirmed cases.

The CDC does not recommend testing for people who may have been exposed to the virus but have no symptoms. Even if they are infected, if they are still in the incubation period there may not be enough virus in their bodies for the test to detect.

The inability to detect very early infections is one reason for keeping planeloads of people from Wuhan in quarantine instead of just testing them and letting them go if the results are negative. A person could test negative and still be infected.

For the same reason, health authorities say there is no benefit to testing symptom-free people on cruise ships.

Because there is an unknown window of time between when a person becomes infected and when the test can find the virus, health officials have determined that a quarantine of two weeks — believed to be the incubation period of the illness — is the best way to make sure that people who may be infected do not transmit the virus to others.

Tests for other infectious diseases can also fail to detect some cases. A panel of tests used to screen for respiratory viruses when pneumonia is suspected can give negative results even if a patient is infected, Dr. Marrazzo said. So can rapid tests for flu and strep throat. Blood tests for HIV can miss the diagnosis in people who were recently infected.

“There is no perfect test for pretty much any infectious disease I can think of,” Dr. Marrazzo said.

Source: The New York Times

China Develops 15 Minute IgM Antibody-based COVID-19 Detection Kit

A new detection kit for the novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) has been developed. It can give a result in 15 minutes through the test of just one drop of the patient's blood, China's State Key Laboratory of Respiratory Diseases revealed on Friday.

The detection kit, which has passed preliminary lab and clinical evaluations, is the outcome of several research institutions' teamwork under the guidance of Zhong Nanshan, head of the expert panel set up by the National Health Commission (NHC) to fight against the coronavirus.

It can detect IgM antibodies, which are the first antibodies made by the body to fight a new infection, through the test of a drop of blood. The result can be delivered within 15 minutes, even when a patient's plasma is diluted 500 to 1,000 times, the lab explained.

Compared with the current RT-PCR nuclei acid tests used for diagnosis, the new test kit is simpler and more efficient, with higher sensitivity and specificity.

It can effectively break the limitations of existing detection methods on personnel and places, and shorten the test time, thus achieving a rapid diagnosis of suspected cases and screening of confirmed patients close contacts.

The detection kit has been used for tests in a hospital in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the epidemic. Some clinically diagnosed patients whose nuclei acid tests showed negative for the virus have been retested with the new kit, and most of the results showed positive for lgM antibodies.

Meanwhile, in the detection test of more than 600 clinical samples taken from Hubei and Guangzhou, the positive rate of lgM antibodies are highly in line with clinical diagnosis results.

So far, many detection kits (for scientific research) have been sent to cities in Hubei, which will be jointly used with other detection methods, such as nuclei acid tests, the lab said.

Source: Chinanews

Smart Devices Help Hong Kong Fight COVID-19

Technology is being use in the forefront to fight  for the control and prevention of the coronavirus that now has Greater China firmly in its grip. Early detection of people infected of the novel coronavirus has become an imminent challenge around the world as the epidemic continues to develop.

In Hong Kong, researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong (PolyU) have developed an automated diagnostic machine that can pathogens for infectious respiratory diseases.

Detection in 40 minutes

A team of researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) recently invented the  portable 2019-nCoV detection device.  With the latest microfluidic chip technology, the device can detect the virus in just 40 minutes from sampling to testing, compared to the currently-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology which takes between 1.5 to 3 hours.

PCR technology is a molecular biotechnology used to amplify specific DNA fragments for the extraction of viral RNA, and the speed of temperature change is the key that determines the efficiency of the DNA’s amplification process, meaning the faster the temperature rises, the shorter the device can come up with a test result.

Unlike conventional large-scale PCR devices which use semiconductor to heat up testing samples, the team led by Prof. WEN Weijia from HKUST’s Department of Physics developed a novel silicon-based micro-heater module for the purpose. The micro-heater, which has lower thermal mass and a better thermal conductivity, could speed up temperature rises to around 30℃ per second from an average of 4-5℃ per second in conventional PCR devices, greatly reducing the detection time.

The detection device uses standard rapid testing tools such as those used for influenza: a quick screen is used to take a sample of the nasal cavity, which is then put into the analyser to determine the result.  Measuring just 33cm long, 32cm wide and 16cm high, the equipment set is light and portable, which is suitable for rapid on-site testing in places such as centres for disease control and prevention, customs, entry-exit inspection and quarantine departments, as well as nursing homes for the elderly.  Each device is equipped with a microfluidic portable PCR analyser, a pre-processing instrument, a bioassay chip and the novel coronavirus nucleic acid detection kits. It can test up to 8 samples simultaneously.

Leveraging on Shenzhen Shineway Technology – a biotechnology startup company co-founded by Prof. Wen and his doctoral graduate Dr. GAO Yibo, the team started this research immediately after obtaining the new coronavirus sequence on January 20 and came up with the testing kit within a week.

The new device is already in use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, while two more sets were being delivered to the CDCP in Hubei and Nansha.  The device has obtained international CE certification (EU standard) and is qualified for export to all European Union (EU) countries as well as Hong Kong.

Detect up to 40 pathogens in one single test

Similarly, the researchers from PolyU have created what claims to be the world's most comprehensive automated multiplex diagnostic system, which includes a fully automated machine and a multiplex full-screening panel for the point-of-care genetic testing (POCT) of respiratory infectious diseases, including the 2019-nCoV.

"Early and accurate detection of pathogens could contribute to effective and efficient disease control and management, and prevent spreading of any contagious pathogens. It benefits the patients as well because timely therapy can then be applied to prevent complications. The existing challenge is that we lack full panel POCT technologies for early and on-site diagnosis, which should ideally be capable of differentiating between different pathogens at the same time. This newly-developed system could be a practical solution," said PolyU Professor Terence Lau Lok-ting, director of Innovation and Technology Development and adjunct professor at the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology.

Professor Lau has overseen this latest project with the support of HKU Professor Yuen Kwok-yung. Through collaborative efforts, their team has spent the past four years to develop the device. The research team has received indispensable support from a local biotechnology company Avalon Biomedical Management for this project.

In the past year, the team has optimised  it and conducted trials on different clinical samples. In the midst of the 2019-nCoV outbreak, the team has also conducted tests on clinical samples using the device.

In one single test and within approximately one hour, the device can identify 30 to 40 pathogens including seasonal influenza viruses, such as influenza A subtypes H1, H2 and H3, avian influenza viruses H5, H7 and H9, human respiratory syncytial virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and 2019-nCoV.

"This fully automated, quantitative rapid diagnostic platform possesses a proprietary technology which overcomes limitations of existing technologies by ensuring sensitivity – and hence significantly enhancing the reliability of test results. Most importantly, our innovation can substantially reduce the cost of the microfluidic cartridge manufacturing thus making it feasible for wide adoption. It is ready for mass-scale production," said Professor Lau.

Leveraging the current polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology, the system is fully automated from sample nucleic acid extraction and amplification, to signal detection and analysis. The System adopts patent-pending microfluidic and biochemical technologies that achieve ultra-sensitive detection (down to 5 gene copies) and simultaneous differentiation of various pathogens with extremely high specificity. It is also user-friendly, with manual handling not being required throughout the testing process.

"The device's versatility and capability will provide for comprehensive monitoring during disease outbreaks or routine surveillance,” said Professor Yuen. “It will become a crucial technology for ensuring the effective control of infectious diseases, medical diagnosis, and treatment."

Smart wristbands monitor potential

Meanwhile the Hong Kong Government has deployed smart wristbands to monitor city residents quarantined inside their homes. The government distributed a total of 500 smart wristbands initially, with an additional 1,000 to be produced in the coming days, if needed.

Government Chief Information Officer Victor Lam explained how the smart device works, saying the wristbands are used in conjunction with smartphones and given to people who had been to Wuhan in the past 14 days and need to quarantine at home as a result.

“This smart wristband will work together with the smartphone. So, a signal will be sent, basically exchanged, between the smartphone and the smart wristband.”

Lam said that the smart technology is designed to send an alert if quarantined individuals attempt to leave their homes.

“If the smartphone is disconnected, then an alert will be immediately sent to the Department of Health and Police for follow up,” he added. “And if the wristband is broken, an alert will also be immediately sent to the Department of Health and Police for follow. So, they work as a pair basically.”

Source: FutureIoT

Sona Nanotech Developing 5-10 Minute Coronavirus Test

A test to screen for the coronavirus that works like a pregnancy test is being developed by a Halifax company.

Screening that employs molecular-based technology costs hundreds of dollars and take hours to provide a result, but Sona Nanotech Inc. CEO Darren Rowles says his company will produce and distribute a lateral flow test for $50 that will give a primary result in five to 10 minutes.

“Most people are familiar with that form, when you say to them it’s like a pregnancy test, that style of format. But that format can be used for so many things, not just pregnancy, but infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, TB… It can be used in so many different things,” Rowles said.

One of the biggest challenges in developing any test is sourcing biological material specific to whatever is being tested for, in this case a strain of virus, Covid-19, different from previous coronaviruses like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)  and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

“If you used biological material that was used to detect MERS and SARS, it wouldn’t necessarily detect very well this new coronavirus strain, the Covid-19,” said Rowles, whose company has sourced biological material from UK-based Native Antigen Co. Sona Nanotech has been devoting its resources to this project for about a month.

“I said to the team, ‘I can foresee this becoming a huge issue,’ similar to the Ebola epidemic I worked on in 2013-14, and that they’re going to need a fast screening test of some sort, however it’s deployed,” said Rowles. “So we got to work.”

The company has had calls from around the world, with pre-orders being made for a test that is probably months from coming to fruition.

“We haven’t got a test ready to go at this point, and anybody that makes a claim that they have a test ready to go in a lateral flow-based format, I would not believe that.  The key thing was making sure you had materials specific to the virus, and those materials, as far as we’re concerned, have only been made available to commercial parties this week,” the CEO said. “It’s very hard to put a time frame on it at this point because this is a brand new test, using new brand new creative materials. There’s still a lot of R&D work to be done.”

Rowles said some lab-based results might be available within two to four weeks, with a few more weeks needed to have a working lab-based prototype.

“Four to eight weeks, maybe, for some initial results, and maybe 12-16 weeks in total for a working prototype.  This is slightly uncharted territory, not your regular test development program that we would undertake,” said Rowles, who is already in contact with the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S., which is drafting the documentation required for this type of test to be submitted for approval.

Rowles expects there will be multiple commercial channels for the sale of his company’s test when it’s complete, including aid agencies, local governments, public health authorities, private hospitals and border security forces.

“Obviously, the huge demand will be from hospital laboratories and public laboratories in affected areas, specifically in China where this outbreak is happening.  Not just in China, there’s lots of countries around the world being affected by this, and other countries want to be prepared for this and put in protocols.”


A test that provides rapid results would be helpful in screening people before they enter a closed public space, like a cruise ship or an airplane, to verify if a patient can be released from quarantine and to if patients require further testing or treatment in a clinical setting.

“If you take the test and it comes back as a negative, you get to be able to be triaged to a safe zone with other negatively predicted patients, and you’re not in the same space as positive patients,” said Rowles.

Patients would probably then need to be administered the molecular-based test, but medical staff could concentrate their efforts on those who test positive. "That’s how you contain the spread of these things, you’ve got to separate people because if you’re not separating them then literally everybody’s going to get it,” he said.

Source: Journal Pioneer

Friday, February 07, 2020

University of the Philippines Develops Test Kit for Coronavirus

A test kit for the new coronavirus is being developed at the University of the Philippines' National Institutes of Health, the project's lead scientist said Tuesday.

Filipino scientists developed the test kits 2 weeks ago, after the World Health Organization released the whole genome sequence of the virus, according to Dr. Raul Destura, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

"The limiting factor was bringing in the raw materials in the country. We’re doing the protocol for strict manufacturing process. Hopefully by next week it will be ready for DOH (Department of Health) to verify and validate," he told senators.

The Philippines previously sent specimens of persons suspected of carrying the new virus strain to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Australia for confirmation.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa received from Japan RNA primers which help identify the specific strain of virus on Jan. 29, according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

"The rapid diagnostic test has to undergo assessment by the experts and I defer to the WHO to guide us," he told senators.

The WHO, meantime, said its assessments of the test kits would be completed in 7 to 10 days.

"The WHO is working with several research groups both inside and outside China on the rapid diagnostic test kits," WHO representative to the Philippines Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.

"The assessments of the test kits will not be completed for about another week to 10 days, after which we have agreed we will provide test kits to Philippines and other countries."

The Philippines on Wednesday confirmed its 3rd case of the novel coronavirus--a 60-year-old Chinese woman from Wuhan who arrived in Cebu and then traveled to Bohol.

Two samples were taken from the patient- one on Jan. 23 and another on Jan. 24, with the earlier specimen confirming presence of novel coronavirus, though it came later than results of the second sample.

Samples taken from the patient on Jan. 24 tested negative when it was sent to Australia and the RITM. However, samples taken a day before tested positive at the RITM, according to results released on Monday.

Source: ABS-CBN News

HKUST Research Team Invents World’s Fastest Coronavirus Detection Device Offering Diagnostic Results in 40 Minutes

Early detection of people infected of the novel Coronavirus has become an imminent challenge around the world as the epidemic continues to develop.  A team of researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) recently invented the world’s fastest portable 2019-nCoV detection device.  With the latest microfluidic chip technology, the device can detect the virus in just 40 minutes from sampling to testing, compared to the currently-used polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology which takes between 1.5 to 3 hours.

PCR technology is a molecular biotechnology used to amplify specific DNA fragments for the extraction of viral RNA, and the speed of temperature change is the key that determines the efficiency of the DNA’s amplification process, meaning the faster the temperature rises, the shorter the device can come up with a test result.

Unlike conventional large-scale PCR devices which use semiconductor to heat up testing samples, the team led by Prof. WEN Weijia from HKUST’s Department of Physics developed a novel silicon-based micro-heater module for the purpose. The micro-heater, which has lower thermal mass and a better thermal conductivity, could speed up temperature rises to around 30℃ per second from an average of 4-5℃ per second in conventional PCR devices, greatly reducing the detection time.

Leveraging on Shenzhen Shineway Technology – a biotechnology startup company co-founded by Prof. Wen and his doctoral graduate Dr. GAO Yibo, the team started this research immediately after obtaining the new coronavirus sequence on January 20 and came up with the testing kit within a week. The new device is already in use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, while two more sets were being delivered to the CDCP in Hubei and Nansha.  The device has obtained international CE certification (EU standard) and is qualified for export to all European Union (EU) countries as well as Hong Kong.

The detection device uses standard rapid testing tools such as those used for influenza: a quick screen is used to take a sample of the nasal cavity, which is then put into the analyzer to determine the result.  Measuring just 33cm long, 32cm wide and 16cm high, the equipment set is light and portable, which is suitable for rapid on-site testing in places such as centers for disease control and prevention, customs, entry-exit inspection and quarantine departments, as well as nursing homes for the elderly.  Each device is equipped with a microfluidic portable PCR analyzer, a pre-processing instrument, a bioassay chip and the novel coronavirus nucleic acid detection kits. It can test up to 8 samples simultaneously.

Shineway Technology is a technology company focuses on the development of real-time in vitro diagnosis technology of nucleic acid molecules, its core team members are all researchers or graduates of HKUST.

Operation video of the microfluidic biochip detection device:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RQayd3FNelQEBkrBs7OWB0-Tzb9gm8rn

About The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) (www.ust.hk) is a world-class research university that focuses on science, technology and business as well as humanities and social science.  HKUST offers an international campus, and a holistic and interdisciplinary pedagogy to nurture well-rounded graduates with global vision, a strong entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking.  HKUST attained the highest proportion of internationally excellent research work in the Research Assessment Exercise 2014 of Hong Kong’s University Grants Committee, and is ranked as the world’s best young university in Times Higher Education’s Young University Rankings 2019.  Its graduates were ranked 10th worldwide and top in Greater China in Global Employability University Survey 2019.

Source: The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Monday, February 03, 2020

Rubix Developing Rapid Coronavirus Detection Device Modeled After Ebola Diagnostic Tool

Rubix LS Isolated Protein Binding Receptors in Ebola and Leishmaniasis Providing Rapid Spectral Analysis of Key Proteins in Real Time Its Technology Now Being Fit to Target Coronavirus

RubixLS deployed rapid diagnostic and elemental detection tools while working on pilot studies on Ebola and Leishmaniasis to countries like India and West Africa.  According to Rubix LS CEO Reginald Swift, "The technology is currently being fitted to specifically target 2019-nCoV by targeting amino acid isolates and mutative protein binding changes from bronchoalveolar fluid through breath."WHO declared coronavirus (2019-nCoV) global health emergency, the rapid scale in which China, U.S, U.K and now India have produced exposure symptoms to coronavirus has according to reports caused more than 100 deaths, 7,700 cases and rising reported so far in China, 8 cases now reported in US, latest reported in Massachusetts same state as Rubix LS is headquartered.

The CDC Newsroom telebriefing of January 30, 2020, states incubation period for coronavirus could be up to 14 days.   When asked if it is possible to detect this virus before somebody is symptomatic, Dr. Nancy Messonnier from CDC responded, "We don't know yet, and we're looking closely to see if we can.  There are two distinct ways.  One is part of our looking at the contacts around these cases is taking samples from them and perhaps hoping that not only will we fulfill a public health mission by doing that but trying to learn more about how the virus is transmitted.  There also are serological tests developed in the United States and elsewhere that could potentially help us learn more about a population level how exposure is taking place."  The CDC  confirmed in separate release that it has spread between two people in the United States, representing first instance of person to person spread with this new virus here.  According to the CDC, MERS and SARS, the other two coronaviruses that have emerged to cause serious illness in people, have also been known to cause some person-to-person spread.

"Rubix LS incorporates an AI/ML platform to specifically isolate protein binding receptor modifying behaviors that were able to target the prediction and precursor of disease evolution and potential patient diagnosis, is quickly adapting new epidemiological findings to build accuracy in its findings," states Swift.  "Our technology utilizes several skin-based sensor technologies, that is configured with communication tools, that can detect and provide a rapid spectral analysis of key proteins in real-time to a custom designed platform for data capture and validation from Rubix LS' secured databank indexed from major health agencies and research institutions globally."

Rubix LS is incorporating its AI platform toward rapidly characterizing the "spike protein" changes that identify key differences from what is observed through 2019-nCOV, SARS & MERS within minutes.  Powered by an AI platform, Rubix LS is looking to augment epidemiological datasets gathered to accurately target key configurations of mutation properties that represent a critical understanding in developing a vaccine.  The results are intended to be used with companion clinical diagnosis from credentialed health care professionals.

"At this present time, Rubix LS is in contact with the CDC to initiate development program to deploy pilot study to rapidly aggregate data to disseminate to the greater scientific community and WHO authorities to deploy robust countermeasure activities worldwide," concludes Swift.

Two New Rapid Coronavirus Tests Could Play Key Role in Efforts to Contain Growing Epidemic

Breaking research in AACC's Clinical Chemistry journal shows that two new tests accurately diagnose coronavirus infection in about 1 hour. These tests could play a critical role in halting this deadly outbreak by enabling healthcare workers to isolate and treat patients much faster than is currently possible.

Since the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China last month, this pneumonia-like illness has spread at an alarming rate. Just yesterday, the World Health Organization officially declared the outbreak a public health emergency, and as of today, the virus has infected nearly 10,000 people in China, with the death toll soaring to more than 200. More cases continue to appear around the globe, with six coronavirus cases already confirmed in the U.S. In order to contain this pandemic, healthcare workers need to quickly and accurately identify new coronavirus cases so that patients get crucial medical care and transmission can be halted. However, the Chinese labs that can test for coronavirus are currently overwhelmed. There are reports of hospitals in Wuhan having to deny testing for severely ill patients, who are then also denied full-time admission because beds need to be saved for those with confirmed diagnoses. Partly as a result of these testing difficulties, researchers estimate that only 5.1% of coronavirus cases in Wuhan have actually been caught.

A team of researchers led by Leo L.M. Poon, DPhil, of the University of Hong Kong has developed two rapid tests for the coronavirus that could break this diagnostic bottleneck. Using a technology known as real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the tests detect two gene regions that are only found in the Wuhan coronavirus (officially known as 2019-novel-coronavirus) and in other closely related coronaviruses such as SARS. The two gene regions detected by the tests are known as ORF1b and N. Significantly, both tests also take only about 1 hour and 15 minutes to run. This fast turnaround time could enable Chinese labs to greatly increase patient access to coronavirus testing.

To evaluate the performance of these tests, Poon's team first confirmed that the tests accurately identify genetic material extracted from cells infected with the SARS coronavirus. The researchers also showed that the tests return negative results for samples containing genetic material from other respiratory viruses, demonstrating that the tests accurately differentiate coronavirus infection from other causes of pneumonia. Lastly, Poon's team used the tests to analyze sputum and throat swab samples from two patients infected with the 2019-novel-coronavirus. The tests correctly gave positive results for both patients.

"Signs of [coronavirus] infection are highly non-specific and these include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, [shortness of breath], and viral pneumonia," said Poon. "Thus, diagnostic tests specific for this infection are urgently needed for confirming suspected cases, screening patients, and conducting virus surveillance. The established assays [in this study] can achieve a rapid detection of 2019-novel-coronavirus in human samples, thereby allowing early identification of patients."