A SARS-CoVID-2 reference standard quantified by multiple digital PCR platforms for quality assessment of molecular tests

release date:2020-11-24

ABSTRACT: The outbreak of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spread worldwide. To meet the urgent and massive demand for the screening and diagnosis of infected individuals, many in vitro diagnostic assays using nucleic acid tests (NATs) have been urgently authorized by regulators worldwide. A reference standard with a well-characterized concentration or titer is of the utmost importance for the study of limit of detection (LoD), which is a crucial feature for a diagnostic assay. Although several reference standards of plasmids or synthetic RNA have already been announced, a reference standard for inactivated virus particles with an accurate concentration is still needed to evaluate the complete procedure. Here, we performed a collaborative study to estimate the NAT-detectable units as a viral genomic equivalent quantity (GEQ) of an inactivated whole-virus SARS-CoV-2 reference standard candidate using digital PCR (dPCR) on multiple commercialized platforms. The median of the quantification results (4.6 × 105 ± 6.5 × 104 GEQ/mL) was treated as the consensus true value of GEQ of virus particles in the reference standard. This reference standard was then used to challenge the LoDs of six officially approved diagnostic assays. Our study demonstrates that an inactivated whole virus quantified by dPCR can serve as a reference standard and provides a unified solution for assay development, quality control, and regulatory surveillance.

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