Quick and easy diagnosis of COVID-19
Thanks to its expertise and technology, INRIM proposes to develop a new diagnostic protocol for COVID-19.
The initiative was born in response to the call "Innovation for Italy", aimed at companies, universities, public and private research institutions and institutions, associations, cooperatives, consortia, foundations and institutes, which can contribute to the fight against the spread of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) on the Italian territory.
"Innovation for Italy" is a joint project of the Minister for Technological Innovation and Digitization Paola Pisano, the Minister of Economic Development Stefano Patuanelli and the Minister of University and Research Gaetano Manfredi, together with Invitalia and supporting the Extraordinary Commissioner for the coronavirus emergency Domenico Arcuri.
Carla Divieto, a young biologist, working at INRIM in the field of metrology for the life sciences, explained the proposal of her research team.
How can you and your research team help the national health system to beat COVID-19?
We can help to diagnose COVID-19. We are proposing a new protocol, based on skills, means and tools we already have. My research team and I have replied to the call "Innovation for Italy", promoted by three ministries (the Ministry for Economic Development, the Ministry of University and Research and the Ministry for Technological Innovation and Digitalisation) to assess the supply of technology solutions to fight the pandemic.
We are still developing this protocol, so it does not yet exist, but we will get there as soon as possible. We need COVID-19 positive samples from hospitals to test the method. Thus, we will be able to check a large number of samples still waiting for a diagnosis. Thanks to direct contact with hospitals and through an innovative technique (the ddPCR, standing for droplet digital polymerase Chain reaction), we will be able to detect and quantify even very low levels of coronavirus.
What results are you expecting?
We will be able to distinguish better the truly positive samples from the false positive ones. Our technique will enable easy and quick diagnoses. It will be possible to reduce many more cases of doubtful positivity, and we will achieve this goal while guaranteeing high-reliability standards.
How can you ensure that your measurements are so reliable?
It’s our job! As a metrology institute, one of our tasks is to ensure accurate measurements. And that is what we always do!
What is your final goal?
We want to develop a unique and internationally shared system for detecting coronavirus. By now, the website of the World Health Organization (WHO) indicates eight procedures, and we know that many more are used by laboratories and biotech companies around the world. On the other hand, we all should use the same method, and we must all have the same references. We need to speak the same language if we want to understand each other and develop a common strategy!
What is the real help you are offering?
After having developed our innovative diagnostic protocol, we will be able to offer two possible services:
- direct analysis of samples from hospitals, relieving the latter of part of their diagnostic activity;
- validation tests of those kits, currently in production and not yet certified since reference materials were missing. Anyway, now we have them, and it is good to make sure that the kits do their job correctly.
Once again, metrology proves to be a transversal science that unites and supports other activities, both scientific and other, in achieving their objectives. In this case, metrology can help doctors to detect more quickly and easily those who have unfortunately contracted COVID-19. But early diagnosis is already a first step towards healing!