Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Researchers in Sweden say they have developed a "fast, cheap, yet accurate" COVID-19 test good for situations in which frequent re-screening is needed and resources are limited, according to an article published Thursday by the journal Nature Communications.
Making testing simpler without markedly compromising accuracy means that "more and faster testing can be carried out," which would help to reduce the rate of virus transmission and allow for earlier treatment of those infected, the researchers said.
The new test was found to be up to 99% accurate at correctly identifying COVID-19 in nasal and throat samples, the data showed.
"Thanks to the low cost and the simplicity of [our] method, it becomes a particularly attractive option at sites and in situations with limited resources but a pressing need to test for COVID-19," researcher Bjorn Reinius said in a statement.
"This test [also could be] used for cheap periodic testing of asymptomatic people to eliminate the spread of infection," said Reinius, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at the Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden.
Most of the diagnostic tests being used for COVID-19 are based on the detection of viral RNA -- or ribonucleic acid, the genetic material of the virus -- in patient samples, such as nasal and throat swabs.
For the most accurate results, RNA molecules must be extracted and purified from collected samples, and this step creates a "major bottleneck" for testing labs because it requires expensive equipment and chemicals, the researchers said.
The approach developed by Reinius and his colleagues circumvents the RNA-extraction process, they said.
Once the patient sample has been inactivated by heating, rendering any particles no longer infectious, it can pass straight to the diagnostic reaction that detects the presence of the virus, they said.
A new formulation of the solution used to collect and transport the sample material taken from patients also helps streamlines the process, the researchers said.
"By replacing the collection buffer with simple and inexpensive buffer formulations, we can enable viral detection with high sensitivity directly from the original clinical sample, without any intermediate steps," Reinius said.