Optimization of duplex digital PCR for the measurement of SARS-CoV-2 RNA.

Publication date: Mar 04, 2024

Quantitative PCR (qPCR) is the gold standard for detecting nucleic acid sequences specific to the target pathogen. For COVID-19 diagnosis, several molecular assays have been developed. In this study, we present an optimization strategy for the measurement of SARS-CoV-2 RNA via multiplex qPCR and digital PCR (dPCR). Compared to qPCR, both droplet and chip-based dPCR, which are known to be more sensitive and accurate, showed a better resilience to suboptimal assay compositions and cycling conditions following the proposed optimizations. In particular, the formation of heterodimers among assays greatly interfered with qPCR results, but only minimally with dPCR results. In dPCR, existing heterodimers lowered the PCR efficiency, producing a dampened fluorescent signal in positive partitions. This can be corrected by adjusting the PCR cycling conditions, after which dPCR shows the capability of measuring the expected copy number. In addition, we present a process to improve the existing RdRp assay by correcting the primer sequences and matching the melting temperature, ultimately producing highly sensitive and robust assays. The results of this study can reduce the cost and time of SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis while increasing accuracy. Furthermore, our results suggest that dPCR is a reliable method for the accurate measurement of nucleic acid targets.

Concepts Keywords
Covid digital PCR
Cycling molecular diagnostics
Dampened RNA measurement
Pcr SARS-CoV-2


Type Source Name
drug DRUGBANK Gold
disease IDO pathogen
disease MESH COVID-19
drug DRUGBANK Tropicamide
disease IDO assay
disease VO efficiency
disease IDO process
disease VO time

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