COVID-19 increased the need to deploy novel diagnostics in great numbers and quickly. Companies mobilised capabilities and capacities to ensure those in most need have access to testing solutions.

Everyone has now heard of PCR’s (Polymerase Chain Reaction) ability to copy and amplify specific nucleic acid sequences. This revolutionised molecular testing and led to PCR being one of the main diagnostic tools for helping to combat COVID-19.

Time is of the essence

In addition to use with COVID-19, PCR can be used across in multiple applications such as forensic science, infectious disease and genetic testing. However, results turnaround can be slow. But, this approach can be expedited with the addition of a portable, easy-to-use lateral flow rapid test.

PCR is lab-based and needs various equipment post-reaction to confirm the presence of nucleic acid; which adds costs and takes time to set-up and use. This can be problematic when new or small labs with limited resources want to adopt PCR or deploy a new PCR test quickly. Especially with the COVID-19 outbreak, where the world desperately needs testing and quick results turnaround.

One option is to use nucleic acid lateral flow assays (NALFIA), as a rapid alternative for nucleic acid detection. These are easy-to-use devices that produce results in minutes without the need for specialist equipment or training.

rapid tests detecting nucleic acid post isothermal amplification

One important step further!

The creation of isothermal amplifications techniques like Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA) has taken molecular testing a step further. Not only can reactions occur in multiple environments with limited resources, but reactions are typically quick. When combining RPA with portable NALFIA tests, the two rapid technologies become a powerful partner.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak took hold, more and more we are seeing interest in using isothermal amplification and NALFIA. The reason being is that by combining these technologies there is the opportunity to quickly deploy in-field or point-of-care (POCT) testing.

NALFIA: the norm

Health spend is increasing due to the mounting pressures on healthcare systems. For example, the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care 'core spending' increased to £156.5bn (2021/22) from £124.5bn in 2010 (Source: The Kings’s Fund). This figure doesn't even include the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic! Add into the mix growing populations in fluid social structures with diverse and complex health needs, spending and pressures will continue.

Speeding up diagnostics and reducing the need for costly specialist equipment with skilled operatives, all contributes to aiding budget management. It also provides the means to identify a diagnosis quickly and the best possible outcome management.

The benefits of nucleic acid rapid tests in outbreaks are obvious but we can also identify many residual strengths that would apply in any scenario;

  • Speed up your route to market
  • Negate specialist equipment costs
  • Reduce staff training as specialist equipment isn’t needed
  • Roll out to a wider audience with POCT and in-the-field testing

The reasons outlined above explain why we envisage NALFIA tests will continue to grow in popularity. In both outbreak and non-outbreak scenarios nucleic acid tests could be a ‘gamechanger’ by combining the accuracy of DNA/RNA amplification with the flexibility and familiarity of lateral flow tests.

If you are working with isothermal amplification methods or PCR and require a rapid nucleic acid detection method please contact us.

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