New PCR Test May Detect COVID-19, 2 Other Respiratory Viruses With Near 100% Efficacy

The TaqMan SARS-CoV-2, Flu A/B, RSV RT-PCR multiplex assay can differentiate between 3 different viral infections (including COVID-19), making it highly cost-effective.

The TaqMan SARS-CoV-2, Flu A/B, RSV RT-PCR (Taqman) multiplex assay can detect severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), multiple strains of influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) with near 100% accuracy. According to the results of a inter-assay and intra-assay precision study, the nasopharyngeal test of the TaqMan multiplex assay was found to detect SARS-CoV-2 with 96.38% to 100% accuracy, while the saliva sample was found to detect the virus with 94.87% to 100% accuracy.

“The detection of respiratory viruses by multiplex RT-PCR was comparable between nasopharyngeal swabs and saliva,” wrote the authors in a report published in Infection and Drug Resistance. “It had a significant role in the diagnosis and management of respiratory illnesses and the clinical implications of co-infection.”

Respiratory tract infections have high morbidly and mortality, the authors explained. During the COVID-19 pandemic, co-infection with RSV and influenza complicated testing and diagnosis. The TaqMan multiplex assay is a new tool to detect the differences between SARS-CoV-2, influenza (A and B), and RSV using respiratory samples.

Researchers evaluated the performance of the nasopharyngeal and saliva samples from the TaqMan multiplex assay, and compared its efficacy in detecting SARS-CoV-2, RSV, and influenza to a reference method (Taqpath Combo kit, Applied Biosystems).

The study results showed that nasopharyngeal and saliva tests could detect COVID-19 infection with 95% accuracy, on average. The influenza A/B strains and RSV were determined with 91.1% to 100% accuracy, and all 3 had an average efficiency of 90 to 110%, the authors explained.

The researchers noted further that the results of the study highlight the importance of multiplex tests for rapid and reliable detection of respiratory infections, which can have severe complications in certain populations.

“The meta-analysis data showed that multiplex PCR provides highly accurate results in the relevant time frame,” study authors wrote in the report.

While the study had a major limitation in its small sample size, the multiplex assay was still able to detect high levels of co-infection, with influenza A and RSV being the most common viruses that infected people who were also infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Viruses are the cause of nearly 90% of upper respiratory tract infections, and 30% of infections are in the lower respiratory tract. While respiratory tract infections like influenza and RSV have become a public threat to people worldwide, the addition of the SARS- CoV-2 increased their danger and mortality. The most common symptoms among all 3 viral infections include fever, chills, headaches, cough, muscle soreness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, runny nose, and sore throat.

“TaqMan SARS-CoV-2, Flu A/B, RSV RT-PCR multiplex assay can be a rapid and accurate alternative multiplex test to detect coinfection with a rapid turnaround time,” study authors wrote in the report. “The meta-analysis data showed that multiplex PCR provides highly accurate results in the relevant time frame.”

Reference

Neopane, P., Nypaver, J., Shrestha, R., et al. Performance Evaluation of TaqMan SARS-CoV-2, Flu A/B, RSV RT-PCR Multiplex Assay for the Detection of Respiratory Viruses. Infect Drug Resist. 2022;15:5411-5423. https://doi.org/10.2147/IDR.S373748