UCI team develops simplified, faster process for detection of viral RNA in saliva samples

UCI researchers have originated a simplified, faster clinical sample testing method to detect genetic material, including viral RNA. Their findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. 

“We showed that a saliva sample withdrawn using a simple microbiological loop can be directly analyzed in a single collection tube, using common and precise DNA amplification techniques such as RT-PCR and LAMP, for detecting viruses,” said corresponding author Andrej Luptak, professor of pharmaceutical sciences. “We significantly streamlined and accelerated the process through the elimination of several steps in sample collection, extraction, purification and further manipulation.”

They also discovered that by using a common detergent to denature the sample, it became noninfectious and much easier to handle. When the sample isn’t manipulated outside the collection tube, there is virtually no risk of contamination of the testing equipment or personnel, enabling nonspecialists to conduct the procedure.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for expedient diagnostic testing. We developed a cost-effective, single-tube approach for collection, denaturation and analysis of clinical saliva samples. This offers a reliable, deployable, point-of-care diagnostic method that can increase frequency and reduce the logical burdens of traditional large-scale testing.

Andrej Luptak
Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences

“We plan to apply this method for other types of clinical samples and potentially automate the process,” Luptak said.

Other researchers on the project were co-leaders Matthew Inlay, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Bert Semler, Distinguished Professor of microbiology & molecular genetics; Kyle Cole, a graduate student in molecular biology; Alexis Bouin, a postdoctoral scholar in microbiology & molecular genetics; and assistant specialist Caila Ruiz, now at Zymo Research Corp.

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