Extraction-free protocol combining proteinase K and heat inactivation for detection of SARS-CoV-2 by RT-qPCR.

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Real-time reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR) is the gold-standard technique for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) detection in nasopharyngeal swabs specimens. The analysis by RT-qPCR usually requires a previous extraction step to obtain the purified viral RNA. Unfortunately, RNA extraction constitutes a bottleneck for early detection in many countries since it is expensive, time-consuming and depends on the availability of commercial kits. Here, we describe an extraction-free protocol for SARS-CoV-2 detection by RT-qPCR from nasopharyngeal swab clinical samples in saline solution. The method includes a treatment with proteinase K followed by heat inactivation (PK+HID method). We demonstrate that PK+HID improves the RT-qPCR performance in comparison to the heat-inactivation procedure. Moreover, we show that this extraction-free protocol can be combined with a variety of multiplexing RT-qPCR kits. The method combined with a multiplexing detection kit targeting N and ORF1ab viral genes showed a sensitivity of 0.99 and a specificity of 0.99 from the analysis of 106 positive and 106 negative clinical samples. In conclusion, PK+HID is a robust, fast and inexpensive procedure for extraction-free RT-qPCR determinations of SARS-CoV-2. The National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices of Argentina has recently authorized the use of this method.

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Authors: Valeria Genoud, Martin Stortz, Ariel Waisman, Bruno G Berardino, Paula Verneri, Virginia Dansey, Melina Salvatori, Federico Remes Lenicov, Valeria Levi