Local company launches Covid-19 test kit that can speed up diagnosis using saliva samples

Veredus Laboratories' ZeroPrep Saliva Collection Kit is able to test for Covid-19 directly by taking saliva samples from the patient. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
The VereRT Covid-19 PCR Kit has obtained provisional authorisation from HSA for supply to hospitals and medical clinics. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A Covid-19 test kit which greatly reduces the time needed to diagnose a patient was launched by home-grown biotech company Veredus Laboratories on Thursday (Sept 17).

Using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing process, the VereRT Covid-19 PCR Kit makes it possible to detect the virus directly from the sample, without having to extract its viral ribonucleic acid (RNA).

To that effect, a specially formulated preservation buffer is added to the sample to stabilise and preserve the viral RNA, bringing about time savings of around 40 minutes and reducing the total processing time of the test to 90 minutes.

A PCR test entails a two-step process of extracting the viral RNA before amplifying the DNA to identify the Sars-CoV-2 virus. It typically takes more than two hours.

The new test kit requires 10 copies of RNA from the viral sample in order to detect for the Sars-CoV-2 virus. The company said this was comparable to most traditional PCR tests kits in the market.

The test kit has also obtained a provisional authorisation from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for supply to hospitals and medical clinics for use on patients to diagnose Covid-19.

Using the same PCR method, the ZeroPrep Saliva Collection Kit from the same company is able to test for Covid-19 directly by taking saliva samples from the patient.

Veredus Laboratories chief executive Rosemary Tan said: "Saliva testing can be self-administered. Unlike swab tests, it does not require trained medical personnel to perform the swabbing procedure and it is a non-invasive method for those who feel uncomfortable with being swabbed."

Patients are expected to collect 1ml of their spit in a funnel, which is later mixed with the solution to preserve the RNA of the virus.

The saliva testing kit, however, has a lower sensitivity rate when compared with the nasopharyngeal swab test kit, though it can still detect asymptomatic patients, said Dr Tan.

The saliva testing kit requires at least 25 RNA copies in the sample to detect for the virus.

It is currently pending approval from HSA for local use, but the team has set its sights on exporting the test kits to markets where saliva testing has been authorised, like Japan.

Both of its test kits have achieved a 99 per cent accuracy rate in testing for Covid-19.

"This method of direct Covid-19 testing is the next step for us as we seek to increase the testing capacity of healthcare authorities and laboratories by reducing workflow complexity in Covid-19 molecular testing," said Dr Tan.

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