Coronavirus: NYU Abu Dhabi develops test to detect virus in asymptomatic people

It could improve accuracy and help reduce the number of false negative results

Researchers at NYU Abu Dhabi have developed a new three-step test to improve accuracy. Courtesy: NYU Abu Dhabi
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Researchers at NYU Abu Dhabi have developed a test that can detect the Covid-19 virus in asymptomatic patients and those in the early stages of infection.

The new tests will have a greater accuracy than the commonly used Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR).

PCR tests can give a false negative reading if a test is carried out soon after exposure to the virus.

The test can miss lower viral loads, which are harder to detect.

Researchers from the university’s Biology Programme and Centre for Genome Systems Biology have introduced a new three-step test to improve accuracy.

“By adding a pre-amplification step and using microfluidic technology, we have demonstrated that this sensitive detection method can detect low viral loads, which is critical to enabling the most effective public health responses to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Youssef Idaghdour, assistant professor of biology at NYUAD.

“Our three-step approach can significantly reduce the false negative rate of standard RT-PCR-based diagnostic tests for Sars-CoV2 and other viral infections.

“This would allow public health officials to more readily identify and trace asymptomatic individuals, enhance the accuracy of air and environmental sampling for Sars-CoV-2, expand accurate detection to saliva testing and help curtail the spread of the virus.”

A recent study from the British Medical Association said the rate of false negative tests could be as low as 2 per cent or as high as 29 per cent.

The same report said the lack of a “gold standard” for evaluating made determining the accuracy of Covid-19 tests challenging.