A worldwide shortage of Covid-19 testing materials is slowing down the rate of testing and increasing the rate of infection.
Coming from Israel, one answer to the problem is a faster and cheaper test using materials commonly found in diagnostic labs.
The test was developed by Prof. Nir Friedman at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Life Sciences and School of Engineering and Computer Science and Prof. Naomi Habib at the university’s Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science.
Testing for Covid-19 currently involves extracting RNA molecules from a patient’s swab sample to see whether they contain viral RNA that confirms the presence of the COVID-19 virus.
The new method developed by Friedman and Habib can do the same thing, only four to 10 times faster due to magnetic beads that work both robotically and manually.
These beads are the only item in the test kit that aren’t readily available in any lab, but one acquired they can be used again and again.
The robotic protocol has already been tested on hundreds of clinical samples at Hadassah Medical Center. “Our results were identical to those found by the kits currently being used,” said Friedman.
“We are publishing a detailed protocol … including steps for manual pipetting and for automated pipetting,” Friedman tells ISRAEL21c. “We will be happy to help other labs in Israel and abroad to set this up. One of the benefits of our protocol is that it is an open system. It does not require a particular device from a specific manufacturer.”
Habib and Friedman have teamed up with 15 researchers and lab students from the university to develop a method enabling tens of thousands of samples to be tested simultaneously using their system, instead of the current rate of thousands of tests.
“We’re encouraged by preliminary and positive indications that this method will work,” said Friedman.