A highly effective reverse-transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) assay for the rapid detection of SARS-CoV-2 infection

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of simple, rapid and accurate diagnostic testing. This study describes the validation of a new rapid SARS-CoV-2 RT-LAMP assay for use on extracted RNA or directly from swab offering an alternative diagnostic pathway that does not rely on traditional reagents that are often in short supply during a pandemic. Analytical specificity (ASp) of this new RT-LAMP assay was 100% and analytical sensitivity (ASe) was between 1x101 and 1x102 copies per reaction when using a synthetic DNA target. The overall diagnostic sensitivity (DSe) and specificity (DSp) of RNA RT-LAMP was 97% and 99% respectively, relative to the standard of care rRT-PCR. When a CT cut-off of 33 was employed, above which increasingly evidence suggests there is a low risk of patients shedding infectious virus, the diagnostic sensitivity was 100%. The DSe and DSp of Direct RT-LAMP (that does not require RNA extraction) was 67% and 97%, respectively. When setting CT cut-offs of ≤33 and ≤25, the DSe increased to 75% and 100%, respectively, time from swab-to-result, CT < 25, was < 15 minutes. We propose that RNA RT-LAMP could replace rRT-PCR where there is a need for increased sample throughput and Direct RT-LAMP as a near-patient screening tool to rapidly identify highly contagious individuals within emergency departments and a care homes during times of increased disease prevalence ensuring negative results still get laboratory confirmation.

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