Jeremy Edwards, director of the Computational Genomics and Technology (CGaT) Laboratory at the University of New Mexico, along with colleagues from Centrillion Technologies in Palo Alto, California and West Virginia University, has developed a simpler and faster genome sequencing method which would allow the detection of respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 with greater accuracy.
Their research study is titled "Highly Accurate Chip-Based Resequencing of SARS-CoV-2 Clinical Samples" and was peer-reviewed and published in the American Chemical Society. It aims to create alternative COVID testing and tracing systems which would be a widely available alternative to current systems which often produce false positives or negatives.
Over 142 million people worldwide are estimated to have contracted COVID-19, and until the vaccine becomes widely and easily available, contact tracing and testing remain the most effective ways to slow down the spread of the virus.
Whereas current clinical testing only allows for confirmation of the presence or absence of the virus, sequencing the entire genome would allow for the spread of the virus and pre-existing variants to be tracked, as well as potential new variants that could appear, scientists confirmed.
During their research, the scientists created a tiled genome array, a less lengthy and more inexpensive process than traditional short read sequencing methods.
Once the researchers had developed the tiled genome array they were able to configure it specifically for the SARA-CoV-2 genome.
The array was then used to resequence the viral genome from 8 different clinical samples from patients in Wyoming who tested positive for COVID-19, and they were able to sequence 95% of the genome from each of the samples with a 99.9% accuracy.
"Since the submission of the paper, the technology has further evolved with improved accuracy and sensitivity" said Edwards about the research. "The chip technology is the best available technology for large-scale viral genome surveillance and monitoring viral variants."
Edwards hopes that this new technology will help control not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but other pandemics in the future too.