As almost every health-care system in the world scrambles to test as many people as possible for the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the Covid-19 disease, shortages of necessary equipment are almost inescapable. In a bid to help, researchers in Jordan have streamlined the process in which viral genetic material is extracted by using a new technique with fewer stages, compared to traditional methods.
“It’s easier and faster,” says Walid Al-Zyoud, head of the biomedical engineering department at the German Jordanian University, in Amman. “We’re also talking about self-dependence for Jordan during the global shortage of tests.” (The research was done with Hazem Haddad, head of MENA molecular genomics and the bio-risk management division at the Jordan University of Science and Technology, and under the auspices of the Jordanian Society of Genetic Engineers).
Currently, most tests look for the presence of the virus’s specific genetic code within a sample—usually taken from a nasal or throat swab. But these viral genes are protected and encased by a rudimentary membrane-like structure known as the viral envelope, so one of the first stages of any testing process is to extract and isolate the genes. This usually involves several rounds of centrifugation with different chemicals, filters and buffering solutions to separate out the various components of the sample. Some of those chemicals are in short supply, which is contributing to the testing delays.