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Biomimetic Virus-Like Particles as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Diagnostic Tools.

  • Author(s): Chan, Soo Khim
  • Du, Pinyi
  • Ignacio, Caroline
  • Mehta, Sanjay
  • Newton, Isabel G
  • Steinmetz, Nicole F
  • et al.

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a highly transmissible disease that has affected more than 90% of the countries worldwide. At least 17 million individuals have been infected, and some countries are still battling first or second waves of the pandemic. Nucleic acid tests, especially reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), have become the workhorse for early detection of COVID-19 infection. Positive controls for the molecular assays have been developed to validate each test and to provide high accuracy. However, most available positive controls require cold-chain distribution and cannot serve as full-process control. To overcome these shortcomings, we report the production of biomimetic virus-like particles (VLPs) as SARS-CoV-2 positive controls. A SARS-CoV-2 detection module for RT-PCR was encapsidated into VLPs from a bacteriophage and a plant virus. The chimeric VLPs were obtained either by in vivo reconstitution and coexpression of the target detection module and coat proteins or by in vitro assembly of purified detection module RNA sequences and coat proteins. These VLP-based positive controls mimic SARS-CoV-2 packaged ribonucleic acid (RNA) while being noninfectious. Most importantly, we demonstrated that the positive controls are scalable, stable, and can serve broadly as controls, from RNA extraction to PCR in clinical settings.

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