Otago research on Covid-19 testing adopted overseas


Otago University researchers who published new ways to process Covid-19 tests say their work is already being used in other countries.

University of Otago research leader Tim Hore.

University of Otago research leader Tim Hore.
Photo: Supplied.

Biologist Tim Hore and his team fine-tuned a simple method to separate virus genetic cells from patients’ nasal samples – an important step to see if Covid-19 is present.

“When something like a pandemic comes along, by having a small number of companies producing all of the chemicals, then the supply chain’s going to fail.

“So in order to have resilient systems, you need to have ways to do it yourself.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the test kits used to diagnose Covid-19 were becoming scarce, as demand soared for reagents, he said.

However, the researchers found these reagents could easily be made using New Zealand materials.

“As the Covid pandemic came upon us and places started running out of reagents in order to do diagnostic testing, they were looking for ways that they could cheaply continue diagnostic teaching and ours was one of the ways this could be addressed.”

Hore and his team used microscopic magnetic beads to purify patients’ nasal swab samples – and once the method was simplified and fine-tuned, it was published online for free use.

“We actually showed regular scientists how to make the beads for themselves and then how to go on and use them to purify genetic material … you could do it for exceptionally cheap, and in a wide variety of ways.”

He said medical laboratories and researchers in New Zealand, the US, UK, and other parts of Europe had already started using their work.

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