The COVID-19 pandemic has killed over 1 million people and caused significant damages to the economy. Despite the availability of vaccine, testing remains critical as it helps contain and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic by identifying infected individuals to help prevent further person-to-person transmission of COVID-19.

RT-PCR has been adopted as the standard method for COVID-19 detection due to its accuracy, specificity and sensitivity. As the method requires expensive laboratory equipment and trained technicians to perform and interpret results, making the PCR platform inaccessible to the wider population, thus crippling the ability to contain the spread.

Research team at BIOTEC-NSTDA has developed COXY-AMP, a rapid COVID-19 colorimetric detection kit. The assay employs loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) technique to amplify genetic materials of SARS-CoV-2, the causative of COVID-19. The test is a simple one-step method and the result, as indicated by the color change, can be visualized with naked eyes.

Because the assay detects SARS-CoV-2 RNA, its performance highly depends on the quantity and quality of RNA. COXY-AMP is designed to consist of two sets of tests: 1) XO-AMP for SARS-CoV-2 RNA detection and 2) Internal Control for RNA assessment to ensure the test accuracy.

The tests are simple to use, by adding RNA to the reaction tubes of both XO-AMP and Internal Control and incubating the tubes at 65°C for 75 minutes. XO-AMP reaction turns yellow if SAR-CoV-2 RNA is present in the sample.  The color shift from purple to green in Internal Control indicates sufficient amount of RNA.

COXY-AMP has a number of advantages over the standard method. COXY-AMP reagents cost around 300 THB/test, compared to 1,000 THB for the RT-qPCR method. In fact, the commercial RT-PCR test for COVID-19 costs as high as 5,000 THB in Thailand. In term of instrument, COXY-AMP only requires a heating block costing only 10,000 THB, whereas the price of RT-PCR machine ranges from 600,000 to 1 million THB. At 75-min assay time, COXY-AMP is twice as fast as an RT-PCR method.

This test was validated with 146 clinical samples, and the results revealed 100% accuracy, 100% specificity, and 100% sensitivity.

This COXY-AMP technology is available for licensing. It was among the exciting innovations presented at the International Innovation and Business Pitching in THAILAND TECH SHOW 2020. Click here to listen to the pitch, in English language, by Dr. Pakapreud Khumwan.