26 Mar CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 (SARS-COV-2): WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS RIGHT NOW?
The role of scientists in an emerging, rapidly evolving situation
Scientists around the globe are working to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. It is a rapidly evolving situation, that requires focus, innovation and collaboration, not only by scientists and medical teams, but every single individual. Detection, characterisation and vaccine development for SARS-CoV-2 are the focus of many scientists and they are in a race against time.
MAP Sciences are focusing on detection and mass screening. We aim to use our knowledge and acquired experience working on MALDI-ToF screening applications to immediately flag anyone with viral particles in their sample.
Why rapid testing is the key?
Social distancing and hand washing are great measures that are currently being implemented in order to prevent the spread of the virus. However, the key to stopping it, is to identify and isolate all (or as much as viable) cases. Being able to test as many people as possible, track all the contacts and isolate is essential to stop transmission. We live in a globally connected society; therefore, we need to act on a global scale.
Testing and extensive contact tracing is a vital strategy in the suppression of the spread of the virus. The data from the example of South Korea speaks for itself. The country was able to dramatically reduce the casualties by maximising the testing, isolating the infected, trace and quarantine their contacts.1
However, there is a global shortage of reagents necessary for testing and laboratories are not operating at their full capacity.2
The solution we offer
MAP Sciences solution is unique compared to the two currently available tests, genetic PCR test detecting viral RNA from a sample from your throat or nasal swab, and serological antibodies detection in your blood sample. Both of these tests come with their advantages and limitations.
In our hands, we have the technology and the expertise of many years working with MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. MAP Sciences are ready to start working in a laboratory and test predicted mass spectral proteins characterising corona viruses on MALDI-ToF spectra. The work so far has been very promising, where with available information on the virus, we can theoretically estimate the protein mass and the unique mass spectral pattern it will produce. It is a similar approach to that of bacterial identification that is revolutionising microbiology testing.3
The best thing about this approach is that the rapid and affordable diagnostic technology could be adapted to all future pandemic virus outbreaks, especially given its high throughput – the vital part to taking control of a virus. With thorough testing and strict standards, it could become a first-line epidemiological tool.