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Overcoming the bottleneck to widespread testing: a rapid review of nucleic acid testing approaches for COVID-19 detection

Esbin, Meagan N. and Whitney, Oscar N. and Chong, Shasha and Maurer, Anna and Darzacq, Xavier and Tjian, Robert (2020) Overcoming the bottleneck to widespread testing: a rapid review of nucleic acid testing approaches for COVID-19 detection. RNA, 26 (7). pp. 771-783. ISSN 1355-8382. PMCID PMC7297120. doi:10.1261/rna.076232.120.

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The current COVID-19 pandemic presents a serious public health crisis, and a better understanding of the scope and spread of the virus would be aided by more widespread testing. Nucleic-acid-based tests currently offer the most sensitive and early detection of COVID-19. However, the “gold standard” test pioneered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention takes several hours to complete and requires extensive human labor, materials such as RNA extraction kits that could become in short supply, and relatively scarce qPCR machines. It is clear that a huge effort needs to be made to scale up current COVID-19 testing by orders of magnitude. There is thus a pressing need to evaluate alternative protocols, reagents, and approaches to allow nucleic-acid testing to continue in the face of these potential shortages. There has been a tremendous explosion in the number of papers written within the first weeks of the pandemic evaluating potential advances, comparable reagents, and alternatives to the “gold-standard” CDC RT-PCR test. Here we present a collection of these recent advances in COVID-19 nucleic acid testing, including both peer-reviewed and preprint articles. Due to the rapid developments during this crisis, we have included as many publications as possible, but many of the cited sources have not yet been peer-reviewed, so we urge researchers to further validate results in their own laboratories. We hope that this review can urgently consolidate and disseminate information to aid researchers in designing and implementing optimized COVID-19 testing protocols to increase the availability, accuracy, and speed of widespread COVID-19 testing.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle Information
Esbin, Meagan N.0000-0002-2157-3831
Whitney, Oscar N.0000-0002-4858-2615
Chong, Shasha0000-0002-5372-311X
Maurer, Anna0000-0003-2768-7757
Darzacq, Xavier0000-0003-2537-8395
Tjian, Robert0000-0003-0539-8217
Additional Information:© 2020 Esbin et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society. This article, published in RNA, is available undera Creative Commons License (Attribution 4.0 International), as described at Freely available online through the RNA Open Access option. We thank all of the members of the Tjian and Darzacq laboratory for their reading, insights, and helpful discussions on this review. We would expressly like to thank the Tjian and Darzacq COVID-19 response team for their unpublished findings relevant to COVID-19 testing presented here. The authors gratefully acknowledge funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (grant CC34430 to R.T. and M.N.E.) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH training program grant T32GM098218 to M.N.E. and NIH training program grant T32GM007232 to O.N.W.). Author contributions: M.N.E. developed the concept; M.N.E., O.N.W., and S.C. contributed to the design and writing of the review; and A.M. prepared the figures. All authors contributed to the reading, collection, and analysis of sources for this review.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)CC34430
NIH Predoctoral FellowshipT32GM098218
NIH Predoctoral FellowshipT32GM007232
Subject Keywords:CRISPR; LAMP; RT-PCR; covid-19; sars-cov-2
Issue or Number:7
PubMed Central ID:PMC7297120
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210902-234003301
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Overcoming the bottleneck to widespread testing: a rapid review of nucleic acid testing approaches for COVID-19 detection Meagan N. Esbin, Oscar N. Whitney, Shasha Chong, Anna Maurer, Xavier Darzacq, and Robert Tjian RNA July 2020 26: 771-783; Published in Advance May 1, 2020, doi:10.1261/rna.076232.120
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:110714
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:07 Sep 2021 18:02
Last Modified:07 Sep 2021 18:02

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