A team of scientists has recently described a new testing method for the coronavirus- Nirvana. This employs a small and portable kit that can quickly analyse a test sample against multiple viral genomes to help doctors establish whether a patient has COVID or another virus with similar symptoms.
In an article published in Med, the team describes a method called isothermal recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA). RPA uses a different gene analysis technique to the traditional COVID PCR test. Coupled with nanopore sequencing, a gene sequencing technique, this method can sequence a viral genome in around 20 minutes. The technique is dubbed Nirvana: “Nanopore sequencing of Isothermal Rapid Viral Amplification for Near real-time Analysis.”
According to one of the authors Mo Li, the test has opened up a new possibility:
“We quickly realized that we could use this technique to not only detect SARS-CoV-2 but other viruses at the same time”.Source: Salk
Nirvana- Why is it different?
Normally, when a patient presents with COVID-like symptoms, they undergo a nasal swab test. Once the test reports negative, they might undergo other tests for other viruses to find out the cause. This can be time consuming, expensive, and uncomfortable for the patient.
Therefore, the team has designed Nirvana so that not only can it test for the different SARS-CoV-2 mutations, but it can also detect and other viruses that cause symptoms mimicking COVID: influenza A, human adenovirus, and non-SARS-CoV-2 human coronavirus.
“We can accomplish with one portable test the same thing that others are using two or three different tests, with different machines, to do.” – Izpisua Belmonte, another author in the study.
The test showed high accuracy among the 70 samples included in the study, which included municipal wastewater carrying SARS-CoV-2.
This fast and accurate method can “provide a promising solution for rapid field-deployable detection and mutational surveillance of pandemic viruses” the authors say in the study.
It can also be tweaked to respond to newer pathogens.
“The pandemic has provided two important lessons: first, test widely and quickly, and second, know your variants. Our NIRVANA method provides a promising solution to these two challenges not only for the current pandemic but also for possible future ones”, says Belmonte.Source: Salk