Due to the lack of protective immunity in the general population and the absence of effective antivirals and vaccines, the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues in some countries, with local epicentres emerging in others. Due to the great demand for effective COVID-19 testing programmes to control the spread of the disease, we have suggested such a testing programme that includes a rapid RT-qPCR approach without RNA extraction. The Direct-One-Step-RT-qPCR (DIOS-RT-qPCR) assay detects severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in less than one hour while maintaining the high sensitivity and specificity required of diagnostic tools. This optimised protocol allows for the direct use of swab transfer media (14 μL) without the need for RNA extraction, achieving comparable sensitivity to the standard method that requires the time-consuming and costly step of RNA isolation. The limit of detection for DIOS-RT-qPCR was lower than seven copies/reaction, which translates to 550 virus copies/mL of swab. The speed, ease of use and low price of this assay make it suitable for high-throughput screening programmes. The use of fast enzymes allows RT-qPCR to be performed under standard laboratory conditions within one hour, making it a potential point-of-care solution on high-speed cycling instruments. This protocol also implements the heat inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 (75 °C for 10 min), which renders samples non-infectious, enabling testing in BSL-2 facilities. Moreover, we discuss the critical steps involved in developing tests for the rapid detection of COVID-19. Implementing rapid, easy, cost-effective methods can help control the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 infection.
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