BIOCEV has been testing hundreds of samples received from hospitals and nursing homes
Infrastructures and Core Facilities — 26.05.2020

Gene Core – Quantitative and digital PCR

BIOCEV has been testing hundreds of samples received from hospitals and nursing homes

One week after receiving approval for engaging in high-capacity testing, BIOCEV researchers have been working at full speed. Four teams are working daily, including on weekends. Samples collected in Prague hospitals and nursing homes have been sent to Vestec, where the centre is headquartered. The Biotechnology and Biomedicine Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and Charles University has also been offering its testing service to other institutions.

A team of researchers from the BIOCEV centre in collaboration with Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, the National Reference Laboratory for Flu at the Czech National Institute of Public Health, and the Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion, has quickly implemented methods that enable reliable detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Researchers have also been testing detection procedures that are independent of the need to use commercial diagnostic means and that are being developed by the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and other teams.

“Virus detection includes two phases. First, we isolate the virus genetic information from patient samples, ribonucleic acid (RNA). Next, we search for and propagate certain virus genome sequences which are only specific to SARS-CoV-2 and are not found in other viruses or naturally in the human body. Through this method, we are able to detect these sequences,” explains RNDr. Ruth Tachezy, the main testing coordinator at BIOCEV. “The advantages of this method include its sensitivity, its independence from commercial diagnostics and the fact it also enables us to examine a large number of samples,” adds Tachezy.

Over one hundred volunteers taken from among the centre’s pool of employees have enrolled in the large-capacity testing process at BIOCEV. They have been helping both with infectious and non-infectious materials, isolation and RNA manipulation, the PCR method, administration and logistics. Tests are being performed by the virological laboratories and research infrastructure of the First Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Science at Charles University, and at the Biotechnology Institute and the Institute of Molecular Genetics at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic.

Isolation procedures and experience with testing are regularly shared with other centres throughout the Czech Republic and abroad. An information platform was provided by the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.