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Clin Chem ; 68(1): 143-152, 2021 12 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20243230


BACKGROUND: The urgent need for massively scaled clinical testing for SARS-CoV-2, along with global shortages of critical reagents and supplies, has necessitated development of streamlined laboratory testing protocols. Conventional nucleic acid testing for SARS-CoV-2 involves collection of a clinical specimen with a nasopharyngeal swab in transport medium, nucleic acid extraction, and quantitative reverse-transcription PCR (RT-qPCR). As testing has scaled across the world, the global supply chain has buckled, rendering testing reagents and materials scarce. To address shortages, we developed SwabExpress, an end-to-end protocol developed to employ mass produced anterior nares swabs and bypass the requirement for transport media and nucleic acid extraction. METHODS: We evaluated anterior nares swabs, transported dry and eluted in low-TE buffer as a direct-to-RT-qPCR alternative to extraction-dependent viral transport media. We validated our protocol of using heat treatment for viral inactivation and added a proteinase K digestion step to reduce amplification interference. We tested this protocol across archived and prospectively collected swab specimens to fine-tune test performance. RESULTS: After optimization, SwabExpress has a low limit of detection at 2-4 molecules/µL, 100% sensitivity, and 99.4% specificity when compared side by side with a traditional RT-qPCR protocol employing extraction. On real-world specimens, SwabExpress outperforms an automated extraction system while simultaneously reducing cost and hands-on time. CONCLUSION: SwabExpress is a simplified workflow that facilitates scaled testing for COVID-19 without sacrificing test performance. It may serve as a template for the simplification of PCR-based clinical laboratory tests, particularly in times of critical shortages during pandemics.

COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing/methods , COVID-19 , COVID-19/diagnosis , Clinical Laboratory Techniques , Humans , RNA, Viral/isolation & purification , Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Sensitivity and Specificity , Specimen Handling
Open Forum Infect Dis ; 8(11): ofab464, 2021 Nov.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1528169


BACKGROUND: We aimed to evaluate a testing program to facilitate control of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission at a large university and measure spread in the university community using viral genome sequencing. METHODS: Our prospective longitudinal study used remote contactless enrollment, daily mobile symptom and exposure tracking, and self-swab sample collection. Individuals were tested if the participant was exposed to a known SARS-CoV-2-infected person, developed new symptoms, or reported high-risk behavior (such as attending an indoor gathering without masking or social distancing), if a member of a group experiencing an outbreak, or at enrollment. Study participants included students, staff, and faculty at an urban public university during the Autumn quarter of 2020. RESULTS: We enrolled 16 476 individuals, performed 29 783 SARS-CoV-2 tests, and detected 236 infections. Seventy-five percent of positive cases reported at least 1 of the following: symptoms (60.8%), exposure (34.7%), or high-risk behaviors (21.5%). Greek community affiliation was the strongest risk factor for testing positive, and molecular epidemiology results suggest that specific large gatherings were responsible for several outbreaks. CONCLUSIONS: A testing program focused on individuals with symptoms and unvaccinated persons who participate in large campus gatherings may be effective as part of a comprehensive university-wide mitigation strategy to control the spread of SARS-CoV-2.