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Novel RT-ddPCR assays for simultaneous quantification of multiple noncoding and coding regions of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

  • Author(s): Telwatte, Sushama;
  • Kumar, Nitasha;
  • Vallejo-Gracia, Albert;
  • Kumar, G Renuka;
  • Lu, Chuanyi M;
  • Ott, Melanie;
  • Wong, Joseph K;
  • Yukl, Steven A
  • et al.

A hallmark of coronavirus transcription is the generation of negative-sense RNA intermediates that serve as the templates for the synthesis of positive-sense genomic RNA (gRNA) and an array of subgenomic mRNAs (sgRNAs) encompassing sequences arising from discontinuous transcription. Existing PCR-based diagnostic assays for SAR-CoV-2 are qualitative or semi-quantitative and do not provide the resolution needed to assess the complex transcription dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 over the course of infection. We developed and validated a novel panel of sensitive, quantitative RT-ddPCR assays designed to target regions spanning the genome of SARS-CoV-2. Our assays target untranslated regions (5', 3') as well as different coding regions, including non-structural genes that are only found in full length (genomic) RNA and structural genes that are found in genomic as well as different subgenomic RNAs. Application of these assays to clinically relevant samples will enhance our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 gene expression and may also inform the development of improved diagnostic tools and therapeutics.

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