HSE Biologists Prepare Strategy for Universal COVID Test
Russian researchers have developed a strategy to create a cheap and rapid COVID-19 test based on isothermal amplification. According to their publication in Applied Biochemistry and Microbiology, use of this strategy will make it possible to create universal test systems for any of the COVID-19 variants.
There are several options for systems that detect traces of SARS-CoV-2 in human blood or secretion samples. They usually detect either scraps of COVID-19’s pathogen RNA using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and its analogues, or antibodies to COVID-19.
Usually, quite a lot of time is required for such a test, from 30 minutes to several hours, which is why researchers are looking for new, faster methods to detect antibodies or COVID infection.
Julia Makarova, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology, is working with her colleagues on another alternative to PCR tests that is based on so-called loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). This testing approach allows for multiplication of certain DNA or RNA fragments from bio samples with the use of special markers and ferments of extremophilic bacteria that reside in hot springs.
The key advantage of LAMP over PCR is that all reactions can be made at the same temperature. This simplifies and speeds up the process. But these systems are much more complicated to develop and have a few drawbacks, which has previously limited their use in COVID-19 test systems.
The Russian researchers developed a strategy that will help overcome these drawbacks and give healthcare professionals an opportunity to use LAMP testing to detect traces of any COVID variants in samples of mucus and blood without preliminary processing in a laboratory.
According to Dr. Makarova, this will decrease the cost of COVID-19 tests considerably and speed up the process, since no specially trained professionals or expensive equipment will be needed.
Julia Makarova, Associate Professor at the HSE Faculty of Biology and Biotechnology
‘The virus mutates quite fast, and the test systems that were created a year ago may be not as effective as they used to be. We analyse the mutations and are looking for the most stable parts of the virus genome. This will help create test systems that recognize all the existing variants and, importantly, the new variants that are appearing.’
To solve this challenge, HSE biologists are looking for parts of the coronavirus genome that do not change much over time. They will serve as markers that bacteria ferments will use to convert the COVID RNA into DNA and multiply it further. Combined with the existing LAMP system components, they will help create a universal COVID-19 testing system, which will be able to quickly detect traces of any COVID variants, the researchers concluded.
Vaccination is generally considered an essential tool for curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Russia was one of the first countries to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 and launched an immunisation campaign in 2021, its vaccination rates remained low for a long time. By October 2021, only 36% of Russian adults were vaccinated, many of whom were compelled by their employers to do so. Having examined the factors contributing to low trust in vaccination among Russians, HSE economists suggest measures to improve vaccination uptake. The paper is published in Vaccine.
Scholars from HSE University and the RAS Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry have demonstrated the efficiency of T-cell immune response against the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. In approximately 90% of vaccinated Europeans, T-cell immunity was as effective against Omicron as with other variants. The results of the study were published in PeerJ.
A team of researchers from the HSE Centre for Cognition and Decision Making and the Central State Medical Academy conducted a study on sleep disorders, mood and fatigue after COVID-19. These factors are interrelated and the researchers recommend a comprehensive approach to treat the problem effectively. The work was published in the journal Neuroscience and Behavioral Psychology.
HSE social and political analysts have established which value models and circumstances promote support for restrictive government policies aimed at combatting the coronavirus pandemic. The research is published in Plos One.
Researchers from the HSE Faculty of Economic Sciences have proposed a mathematical model that describes the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into account the restrictions applied in different countries. The model will help governments make reasonable and timely decisions on introducing or lifting restrictions. The paper was published in Eurasian Economic Review.
HSE University researchers assessed the effectiveness of the T-cell immune response to 11 variants of SARS-CoV-2. Their findings have been published in Nucleic Acids Research.
The new regulations ‘On the Organization of Studies for the 2021/2022 Academic Year’ feature in detail what will change for first-year students in the new academic year. HSE University will be organizing a vaccination drive in September for students aged 18 and over who are unvaccinated. Younger students will be eligible for vaccination once they turn 18.
Starting September 1, 2021, HSE University-Moscow is introducing new safety policies on campus to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They apply to students over 18 years old who have not had COVID during the last six months, have not been vaccinated (with a Russian or a foreign vaccine), nor have a medical exemption from vaccination. Free vaccination will be available on campus to all arriving students.
Researchers of HSE Tikhonov Moscow Institute of Electronics and Mathematics (MIEM), in cooperation with their colleagues from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), and The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), have developed software to model the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic. This is the world’s fastest Viral Genealogy Simulator (VGsim). For more details about this scalable simulator, read the reprint on medRxiv. The code is freely available at GitHub.