Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn Somboonna, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University and Head of RT-LAMP COVID-19 test kit development project revealed another success milestone in COVID-19 testing with the RT-LAMP method that can detect the virus similar to the RT-PCR test, but this newly developed RT-LAMP method tests for three genes to cover the life cycle of the virus, making it highly sensitive, simple and cheaper than the RT-PCR test. It can detect the COVID-19 virus from the nasal cavity, throat, as well as saliva and objects in the environments contaminated with COVID-19, making it ideal for high-risk groups, schools, and various establishments.

 

                                 Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn Somboonna, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University
                                                
                                                   Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn Somboonna

  

RT-LAMP Test Procedures

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn said that in the COVID-19 field testing of high-risk groups, 5ml of saliva is collected, but only 1 ml is used for DNA/RNA isolation. Then, RT amplification is performed and followed by a results analysis. The inexpensive test can amplify both DNA and RNA at 85 degrees Celsius. it is highly sensitive and can yield results within 1 hour.

 

The genesis of 3-gene RT-LAMP test kits

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn said that prior to the severe outbreaks of COVID-19, the Department of Microbiology’s labs had developed a series of tests with single-temperature RT amplification to diagnose a wide range of diseases, including food contamination.  The 3-Gene RT-LAMP test kit is a collaboration of the Departments of Microbiology, Chemistry, and the CU Innovation Hub.

The 3-Gene RT-LAMP test kit is capable of DNA/RNA amplification.  It is colorimetric, and the results can be detected with the naked eye.  It is simple and people can perform self-test after receiving directions from practitioners, thus reducing the burden of medical personnel.  Most importantly, it is five times cheaper than the RT-PCR test.

“The clinical trials by Chula Faculty of Medicine, and field testing with real subjects using their saliva, and samples from other objects in the local environment such as doorknobs, toilet flushers, and banknotes, benchmarked against RT- PCR test showed that the results were confirmed to be as accurate, fast, and timely.  Additional trials on 2,000 samples are planned,” said Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn.

 

Better accuracy with 3-Gene RT-LAMP test

In addition to the deployment of the RT-LAMP test kits in the field, in collaboration with the Sweat-Test team from the Department of Chemistry, Chula Faculty of Science, and the Department of Health, the Ministry of Public Health is planning to commercialize the RT-LAMP test kits by preparing a production plant, and further field testing.

“COVID-19 is continuing to spread and may mutate or spread in other forms of outbreaks. The fact that Thailand can produce 3-Gene RT-LAMP COVID-19 test kits without having to import from abroad will help to contain the outbreaks quickly. While the standard RT-PCR test is expensive, and may not be convenient for people to travel to the hospital or test centers, the RT-LAMP tests provide easier access to the community and can detect infected people in the early stages even with very few viruses in the body.  This will help mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic in the long run,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn concluded.

 

Those interested in supporting Chula’s development of the 3-Gene RT-LAMP test kit, please contact Assoc. Prof. Dr. Naraporn Somboonna, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Chulalongkorn University, email: [email protected], tel. +66-2218-5070-1, or at AL-DNA Startup, a CU Innovation Hub; email: [email protected]