The Biomedical Research Center of the SAS voluntarily joined the COVID-19 disease testing already in March 18 as the first external subject in close cooperation with the Public Health Authority of the Slovak Republic. Currently, the virologists are testing 368 samples within the frame of the maximum daily capacity. In the coming days, this number is about to double thanks to the specialised device which will be donated to the SAS by the Slovak Savings Bank Foundation. Thus, the scientists will be able to effectively test several tens of thousands of samples in a shorter time with the involvement of fewer employees.
“The acceleration and streamlining of the testing with the help of a mentioned specialised device rests in the fact that bigger part of the process of RNA extraction from the clinical samples will be taken over by the device. Thanks to this, the process will run faster, without the risk of errors, and in an absolutely standardised way. Simultaneously, this will unburden our employees who can prepare other samples during the running of the device, or prepare the next steps of the whole process. As a result, not only the speed of the process of RNA extraction will increase, but also our overall testing capacity,” explains RNDr. Boris Klempa, DrSc., head of the Department of Virus Ecology of the BMC SAS.
The procedure of the samples´ testing is performed in two phases, the first of which – isolation of the viral RNA from the nasopharyngeal swab sample is realized manually, and the second phase – reverse transcription of RNA to DNA with a subsequent PCR reaction already takes place in a specialised device. The first manual samples processing and the isolation of the viral RNA are very time-consuming, and they represent a limitation for increasing the number of the tested samples. As part of the donation, the necessary reagencies for the viral RNA isolation, which are currently also goods in short supply, were also purchased.
“One of the most effective ways to fight the coronavirus is extensive testing. However, a detection of the virus is technically complicated, and a manually demanding operation consisting, among other things, of the viral RNA isolation. With the use of modern devices and isolation kits, this process becomes not only simpler, faster, but mainly more reliable. Thanks to the generous financial help of the Slovak Savings Bank, it was possible to purchase the most modern technical infrastructure for RNA isolation, which will not only significantly streamline the testing process but also strengthen the position of the Biomedical Research Center of the SAS as an internationally recognized workplace in the field of virology. The donation of the Slovak Savings Bank is extremely precious not only because of its scope but also because it was provided flexibly and unbureaucratically just at the time when Slovakia acutely needs it,” states Róbert Mistrík from the permanent crisis staff.
“Slovakia needs to test a lot in the coming months for a responsible restart of people’s lives and the economy. I believe that thanks to the new special device, which the Slovak Academy of Sciences starts to use in these days, this will be successfully accomplished. On behalf of the Slovak Savings Bank Foundation and the bank, we are proud that we can be part of this project, and that out of the EUR 1,000,000, which we have budgeted to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, EUR 500,000 went for the purchase of the device and isolations kits for needs of the SAS testing. In the Slovak Savings Bank and our foundation, we believe that this is how a reliable and responsible firm should behave, which is here for its clients, employees, and also society. Because only when we are together, we can get up and begin to live again,” said Peter Krutil, a member of the Board of Directors of the Slovak Savings Bank and, at the same time, the bank’s CEO.
Even though the epidemiological situation in Slovakia is currently favourable, the testing, as a tool for controlling the infection, is going to be performed on a long-term basis. Even after the end of the current epidemic situation, the device will be used effectively within the frame of the virology research, the aim of which will be to increase our preparedness for new infections caused by emerging viruses.