BioSci researchers conduct Singapore-funded qPCR kits validation for possible cheaper mutation tracking

A team of Biological Sciences researchers are currently conducting clinical and community-based testing of newly developed COVID-19 qPCR kits, which use nasopharyngeal swabs and saliva with or without mRNA extraction.

The team of Professor Pia Marie S.P. Albano, PhD, Inst. Reuel M. Bennett, Dr. rer. nat., Asst. Prof. Nikki Heherson A. Dagamac, Dr. rer. nat., and Asst. Prof. Maureen B. Sabit, PhD, are conducting clinical validation studies funded by MiRXES (Singapore), in collaboration with UST and Singapore Diagnostics (Makati).

The use of the kits, specifically those using saliva samples, will eliminate the need for swabbers, thereby reducing time for the testing and the possible spread of infection, since the patients can self-collect the samples. According to the group, should the kits pass all validation tests, it can later “serve as a cheaper alternative to gene sequencing to track mutations that can impact the effectiveness of vaccines.” Albano, the lead proponent of the study, said that apart from confirming whether patients are Covid-19 positive or not, the positive samples can be analyzed for mutations, which “can identify the variants of concern.”

Albano disclosed that while the kits were already tested using “contrived samples,” further validation in clinical and community settings were required. They are thus “recruiting at least a thousand participants to see the kits’ diagnostic performance.” If found to be viable, the group and MiXRES will apply for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which will allow the commercial distribution of the kits across India and Southeast Asia later on.

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