Special Topic

Exp Neurobiol 2020; 29(2): 107-119

Published online March 11, 2020

© The Korean Society for Brain and Neural Sciences

Development of a Laboratory-safe and Low-cost Detection Protocol for SARS-CoV-2 of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Joungha Won1,2, Solji Lee1, Myungsun Park1, Tai Young Kim1, Mingu Gordon Park1,3, Byung Yoon Choi4, Dongwan Kim5,6, Hyeshik Chang5,6, V. Narry Kim5,6 and C. Justin Lee1*

1Center for Cognition and Sociality, Cognitive Glioscience Group, Institute for Basic Science, Daejeon 34126, 2Department of Biological Sciences, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Daejeon 34141, 3KU-KIST Graduate School of Converging Science and Technology, Korea University, Seoul 02841, 4Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Seoul National University Bundang Hospital, Seongnam 13620, 5Center for RNA Research, Institute for Basic Science, Seoul 08826, 6School of Biological Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul 08826, Korea

Correspondence to: *To whom correspondence should be addressed.
TEL: 82-42-878-9150, FAX: 82-42-878-9151

Received: February 28, 2020; Revised: March 7, 2020; Accepted: March 7, 2020

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License
( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and
reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

The severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has spread rapidly to over a dozen countries. Especially, the spike of case numbers in South Korea sparks pandemic worries. This virus is reported to spread mainly through person-to-person contact via respiratory droplets generated by coughing and sneezing, or possibly through surface contaminated by people coughing or sneezing on them. More critically, there have been reports about the possibility of this virus to transmit even before a virus-carrying person to show symptoms. Therefore, a low-cost, easy-access protocol for early detection of this virus is desperately needed. Here, we have established a real-time reverse-transcription PCR (rtPCR)-based assay protocol composed of easy specimen self-collection from a subject via pharyngeal swab, Trizol-based RNA purification, and SYBR Green-based rtPCR. This protocol shows an accuracy and sensitivity limit of 1-10 virus particles as we tested with a known lentivirus. The cost for each sample is estimated to be less than 15 US dollars. Overall time it takes for an entire protocol is estimated to be less than 4 hours. We propose a cost-effective, quick-and-easy method for early detection of SARS-CoV-2 at any conventional Biosafety Level II laboratories that are equipped with a rtPCR machine. Our newly developed protocol should be helpful for a first-hand screening of the asymptomatic virus-carriers for further prevention of transmission and early intervention and treatment for the rapidly propagating virus.

Graphical Abstract

Keywords: Coronavirus, SARS virus, Infectious disease, Diagnostic techniques and procedures, Communicable diseases, Emerging, COVID-19