Double-quencher probes improve detection sensitivity toward Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay.J Virol Methods. 2020 10; 284:113926.JV
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which emerged in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, has spread worldwide and is threatening human life. The detection of SARS-CoV-2 is critical for preventing new outbreaks, curbing disease spread, and managing patients. Currently, a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay is used to detect the virus in clinical laboratories. However, although this assay is considered to have high specificity, its sensitivity is reportedly as low as 60-70 %. Improved sensitivity is, therefore, urgently required.
We used the primers and single-quencher probes recommended by the CDC (N1, N2 and N3) in the USA and the NIID (N1 and N2) in Japan. In addition, we designed double-quencher probes according to the virus sequence provided by the NIID to develop a further assay (termed the YCH assay [N1 and N2]). Using these assays, we conducted RT-PCR with serially diluted DNA positive controls to assess and compare the detection sensitivity of the three assays. Furthermore, 66 nasopharyngeal swabs were tested to determine the diagnostic performances.
The threshold cycle (Ct) value of the RT-PCR was relatively low for the CDC and YCH assays compared with the NIID assay. Serial dilution assays showed that both the CDC and YCH assays could detect low copy numbers of the DNA positive control. The background fluorescence signal at the baseline was lower for the YCH assay compared with the NIID assay. We assessed the diagnostic performance between single- (NIID) and double-quencher (YCH) probes using 66 nasopharyngeal swabs. When the results of YCH-N2 assay were used as a reference, each assay detected SARS-CoV-2 with positive percent agreements of 56 % for NIID-N1, 61 % for YCH-N1, and 94 % for NIID-N2, and 100 % negative percent agreements for NIID-N1, YCH-N1 and NIID-N2.
Double-quencher probes decreased the background fluorescence and improved the detection sensitivity of RT-PCR for SARS-CoV-2.