UL scientists develop solution to help overcome coronavirus testing shortages

7 Apr 2020

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With a shortage of essential materials for coronavirus testing kits, UL scientists have developed their own solution to meet global demand.

With nations across the world looking to contain the spread of Covid-19, there is now a global shortage of reagents and extraction kits for testing patients for the virus.

Now, however, researchers from the University of Limerick and its Bernal Institute have teamed up with other research centres to create a Covid-19 testing solution that is currently in short supply. The lysis buffer solution is used for DNA extraction to gain results from patient swabs.

The lysis buffer developed at UL has been validated at University Hospital Limerick and is now being used there for Covid-19 testing. The researchers behind the solution said it is now available for use across Ireland, with pharma companies now able to rapidly produce batches to meet demand.

‘A week-to-week scramble for reagents’

“We can only do [small-scale production] here in the research labs, but we are waiting on another shipment,” said Dr Edel Durack, an instrumental scientist at Bernal Bio Laboratories.

“We will make another small volume, but it is definitely being used in the hospital and it is a stop gap, because there is definitely a week-to-week scramble for reagents.”

The production of the lysis buffer is part of wider efforts by UL, which has set up a Covid-19 action group to coordinate the many activities in progress and emerging across campus in response to the pandemic. The researchers are working under the supervision of UL vice-president of research Prof Norelee Kennedy.

“A team from across UL combined in a collaborative way to make this happen rapidly. Everyone is keen to help in any way that they can,” Kennedy explained.

“UL has an extensive group of volunteers contributing to all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis. Other initiatives are also under development, where collaborative programmes with colleagues from other higher education institutes and industry will be pivotal to making a difference in this challenging time.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic