Rapid and sensitive detection of human pathogens, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), is an urgent and challenging task for clinical laboratories. Currently, the gold standard for SARS-CoV-2–specific RNA is based on quantitative RT-PCR (RT-qPCR), which relies on target amplification by Taq polymerase and uses a fluorescent resonance energy transfer–based hydrolysis probe. Although this method is accurate and specific, it is also time consuming. Here, a new molecular assay is described that combines a highly sensitive magnetic modulation biosensing (MMB) system, rapid thermal cycling, and a modified double-quenched hydrolysis probe. In vitro transcribed SARS-CoV-2 RNA targets spiked in PCR-grade water, were used to show that the calculated limit of detection of the MMB-based molecular assay was 1.6 copies per reaction. Testing 309 RNA extracts from 170 confirmed RT-qPCR SARS-CoV-2–negative individuals (30 of whom were positive for other respiratory viruses) and 139 RT-qPCR SARS-CoV-2–positive patients (CT ≤ 42) resulted in 97.8% sensitivity, 100% specificity, and 0% cross-reactivity. The total turnaround time of the MMB-based assay is 30 minutes, which is three to four times faster than a standard RT-qPCR. By adjusting the primers and the probe set, the platform can be easily adapted to detect most of the pathogens that are currently being diagnosed by RT-qPCR.
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© 2021 Association for Molecular Pathology and American Society for Investigative Pathology