American Chemical Society
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Virus-Like Particles as Positive Controls for COVID-19 RT-LAMP Diagnostic Assays

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-02-04, 20:03 authored by Soo Khim Chan, Pinyi Du, Caroline Ignacio, Sanjay Mehta, Isabel G. Newton, Nicole F. Steinmetz
Reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) is a rapid and inexpensive isothermal alternative to the current gold standard reverse transcription quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) for the detection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). However, unlike RT-qPCR, there are no consensus detection regions or optimal RT-LAMP methods, and most protocols do not include internal controls to ensure reliability. Naked RNAs, plasmids, or even RNA from infectious COVID-19 patients have been used as external positive controls for RT-LAMP assays, but such reagents lack the stability required for full-process control. To overcome the lack of proper internal and external positive controls and the instability of the detection RNA, we developed virus-like particles (VLPs) using bacteriophage Qβ and plant virus cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) for the encapsidation of target RNA, namely a so-called SARS-CoV-2 LAMP detection module (SLDM). The target RNA is a truncated segment of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) gene and human RNase P gene (internal control) as positive controls for RT-qPCR and RT-LAMP. Target RNAs stably encapsidated in Qβ and CCMV VLPs were previously shown to function as full-process controls in RT-qPCR assays, and here we show that SLDMs can fulfill the same function for RT-LAMP and swab-to-test (direct RT-LAMP with heat lysis) assays. The SLDM was validated in a clinical setting, highlighting the promise of VLPs as positive controls for molecular assays.