Illinois researchers advance COVID-19 point-of-care technologies and impact

7/27/2021

Ryann Monahan

Advances made by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are set to improve the ability to diagnose COVID-19 and other infectious diseases more quickly and at the point of care. The findings offer a new approach to viral detection that currently primarily relies on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests – the present gold standard for detecting COVID-19.

The work is a collaboration between researchers from Carle Illinois College of Medicine , the department of bioengineering at The Grainger College of Engineering  and Carle Foundation Hospital.

The team’s research tackles the limitations of current standards of viral detection that rely primarily on PCR. Researchers present an optimized reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) approach for detecting viral RNA down to a few copies from nasopharyngeal swabs and saliva specimens. By adding a short 10-minute RT-incubation step and additional process, the team increased the sensitivity of the RT-LAMP reaction by two orders of magnitude over the current one-step or two-step RT-LAMP reactions.

“We believe our approach will allow rapid scaling of testing and detection of cases that might have been missed otherwise due to low viral amounts when using LAMP technology,” said study co-author Rashid Bashir, Carle Illinois College of Medicine and bioengineering professor, Grainger Distinguished Chair in Engineering, and dean of The Grainger College of Engineering.

The research team compared the assay from saliva and viral transport media from the same patients to prove results. “The findings are significant because RT-LAMP has been shown to have lower sensitivity then PCR. Our new optimized RT-LAMP shows the same sensitivity to that of RT-PCR,” Anurup Ganguli, first author on the paper, explained.

The research paper, “Reverse Transcription Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Assay for Ultrasensitive Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Saliva and Viral Transport Medium Clinical Samples,” has been published in ACS Analytical Chemistry. It is one of two papers recently published in ACS that showcase UIUC’s collaborative advances and contributions to combating COVID-19 and preparing for future pandemics. The second, “COVID-19 Point-of-Care Diagnostics: Present and Future,” offers a new evaluation of the evolution and current and future impact of COVID-19 Point-of-Care (POC) technologies.

The analysis published in ACS Nano, reviews the current state of COVID-19 POC technologies and outlines how advancements in the field can improve diagnosis and monitoring of the COIVD-19 infection.

The team’s Perspective paper was led by Enrique Valera, research assistant professor in the department of bioengineering at UIUC, and is co-authored by Carle Illinois College of Medicine professors Rashid Bashir, James Kumar, and Karen White.

Point-of-care detection technologies that enable decentralized, rapid, sensitive, low-cost diagnostics of COVID-19 infection are urgently needed around the world, according to Valera. As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes endemic, the advances gained in POC technologies during this past year will likely play a critical role in future prediction of emerging outbreaks and pandemics.

“We expect that our vision of future challenges in COVID-19 diagnostics will contribute to deciding future research lines in this field,” said Valera.

Study authors say COVID-19 POC readiness will be paramount for mitigating future outbreaks of new strains or novel viruses. “The response to this pandemic was extremely fast when it comes to drug development. However, improved diagnostics have yet to be achieved,” said Valera. “The POC technology platforms developed in recent months should quickly be translated to the detection of new pathogens, once the sequence is known.”

This research was supported by Foxconn Interconnect Technology, Center for Networked Intelligent Components and Environments (C-NICE), Jump Applied Research through Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) endowment through the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana−Champaign, and the National Science Foundation a Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant (Award 2028431) program.

The paper “COVID-19 Point-of-Care Diagnostics: Present and Future” is available online.

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c02981

Corresponding authors include:

  • Enrique Valera − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, orcid.org/0000-0003-1359-6619
  • Rashid Bashir − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, Department of Biomedical and Translational Science, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, orcid.org/0000- 0002-7225-9180

Authors include:

  • Aaron Jankelow − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Jongwon Lim − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Victoria Kindratenko − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Anurup Ganguli − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Karen White − Department of Biomedical and Translational Science, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, Carle Foundation Hospital
  • James Kumar − Department of Biomedical and Translational Science, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, Carle Foundation Hospital

Complete contact information is available at: https://pubs.acs.org/10.1021/acsnano.1c02981

The paper Reverse Transcription Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification Assay for Ultrasensitive Detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Saliva and Viral Transport Medium Clinical Samples is available online.

The research was supported by a NSF Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant (award 2028431) and Jump Applied Research through Community Health through Engineering and Simulation (ARCHES) endowment through the Health Care Engineering Systems Center at the UIUC.

DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.0c05170

Authors include:

  • Rashid Bashir − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, Department of Biomedical and Translational Science, Carle Illinois College of Medicine, orcid.org/0000- 0002-7225-9180
  • Anurup Ganguli − Department of Bioengineering and Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Ariana Mostafa – Department of Bioengineering, Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Jacob Berger – Department of Bioengineering, Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
  • Jongwon Lim – Department of Bioengineering, Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory,
  • Elbashir Araud – Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9314-2408
  • Janice Baek – Department of Bioengineering, Department of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Sarah A. Stewart de Ramirez – Department of Bioengineering, Emergency Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria & OSF Healthcare
  • Ali Baltaji – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Kelly Roth – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Muhammad Aamir – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Surya Aedma – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Mohamed Mady – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Pranav Mahajan – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Sanjivani Sathe – Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Mark Johnson – Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • Karen White – Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • James Kumar – Carle Foundation Hospital, Carle Illinois College of Medicine
  • Enrique Valera – Department of Bioengineering, Nick Holonyak Jr. Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory,  https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1359-6619