High sensitivity detection of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 using multiplex PCR and a multiplex-PCR-based metagenomic method

Chenyu Li, David Debruyne, Julia Spencer, Vidushi Kapoor, Lily Liu, Bo Zhou, Lucie Lee, Rounak Feigelman, Grayson Burdon, Jeffrey Liu, Alejandra Oliva, Adam Borcherding, Hongdong Tan, Alexander Urban, Guoying Liu, Zhitong Liu

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Received date: 13th March 2020

Many detection methods have been used or reported for the diagnosis and/or surveillance of SARS-CoV-2. Among them, reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is the most sensitive, claiming detection of about 5 copies of viruses. However, it has been reported that only 47-59% of the positive cases were identified by RT-PCR, probably due to loss or degradation of virus RNA in the sampling process, or even mutation of the virus genome. Therefore, developing highly sensitive methods is imperative to ensure robust detection capabilities. With the goal of improving sensitivity and accommodate various application settings, we developed a multiplex-PCR-based method comprised of 172 pairs of specific primers, and demonstrated its efficiency to detect SARS-CoV-2 at low copy numbers. The assay produced clean characteristic target peaks of defined sizes, which allowed for direct identification of positives by electrophoresis. In addition, optional sequencing can provide further confirmation as well as phylogenetic information of the identified virus(es) for specific strain discrimination, which will be of paramount importance for surveillance purposes that represent a global health imperative. Finally, we also developed in parallel a multiplex-PCR-based metagenomic method that is amenable to detect SARS-CoV-2, with the additional benefit of its potential for uncovering mutational diversity and novel pathogens at low sequencing depth.

Read in full at bioRxiv.

This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on a preprint server, which is currently undergoing peer review at Scientific Reports. The findings have yet to be thoroughly evaluated, nor has a decision on ultimate publication been made. Therefore, the results reported should not be considered conclusive, and these findings should not be used to inform clinical practice, or public health policy, or be promoted as verified information.


Scientific Reports

Nature Research, Springer Nature