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Rapid implementation of SARS-CoV-2 emergency use authorization RT-PCR testing and experience at an academic medical institution

By Priya Velu, Arryn Craney, Phyllis Ruggiero, John Sipley, Lin Cong, Erika Hissong, Massimo Loda, Lars F Westblade, Melissa Cushing, Hanna Rennert

Posted 08 Jun 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.05.20109637

An epidemic caused by an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in China in December 2019 has since rapidly spread internationally, requiring urgent response from the clinical diagnostics community. We present a detailed overview of the clinical validation and implementation of the first laboratory-developed real-time reverse-transcription-PCR (rRT-PCR) test offered in the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital system following the emergency use authority (EUA) guidance issued by the US Food and Drug Administration. Validation was performed on nasopharyngeal and sputum specimens (n=124) using newly designed dual-target rRT-PCR (altona RealStar SARS-CoV-2 Reagent) for detecting of SARS-CoV-2 in upper respiratory and lower respiratory tract specimens, including bronchoalveolar lavage and tracheal aspirates. Accuracy testing demonstrated excellent assay agreement between expected and observed values. The limit of detection (LOD) was 2.7 and 23.0 gene copies/reaction for nasopharyngeal and sputum specimens, respectively. Retrospective analysis of 1,694 tests from 1,571 patients revealed increased positivity in older patients and males compared to females, and an increasing positivity rate from approximately 20% at the start of testing to 50% at the end of testing three weeks later. Our findings demonstrate that the assay accurately and sensitively identifies SARS-CoV-2 in multiple specimen types in the clinical setting and summarizes clinical data from early in the epidemic in New York City.

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