Two distinct diagnostic tests, a host/pathogen RNA sequencing platform, and spatially resolved tissue mapping tools, were created by a multidisciplinary team of Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-led researchers and used to map SARS-CoV-2 infections at the height of the initial COVID-19 outbreak in New York City.
These alternatives to the gold standard RT-PCR test expand the repertoire of tools available to the public health community and together offer the benefits of speed, simplicity and in-depth knowledge about the virus.
The multidisciplinary study, published March 12 in Nature Communications, demonstrates that a test called reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) can quickly and accurately detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in patient samples using simple equipment, while a second approach that captures and sequences the viral RNA allows investigators to identify and track the evolution of variants. The investigators further demonstrated that total RNA sequencing yields insights into both viral sequence evolution as well as human responses to the viral infection.
“We are entering a new era of fast and accurate tools that can tell us when and how viral variants arise and move in specific populations,” said senior author Dr. Christopher Mason, co-director of the WorldQuant Initiative for Quantitative Prediction and a professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine. “We hope our innovations will be used like a weather report to identify viral outbreaks, improve tracking and tracing efforts to protect people from infection, and improve treatment interventions for patients.”